Bayreuth reveals its list of political freebies

Bayreuth reveals its list of political freebies


norman lebrecht

July 01, 2011

The state of Bavaria has just published in a press release the names of prominent persons who have been invited, mostly on free tickets, o appear at this year’s opening night of the Bayreuth Festival on July 25.

Top ticket, as ever, is the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.


Next up are the new head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde (never snapped there before) and the European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet. Guess they can talk Rhine gold in the interval (actually, the show is Tannhäuser, so it may not be appropriate).

The European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli will be there on a freebie – don’t ask me why – along with the ambassadors of the United States of America, Great Britain, France, Japan and South Korea.

Seven other German Cabinet ministers, together with Cabinet spokesman. The entire Cabinet of Bavaria and the heads of five political parties, along with various secretaries of state. Plus the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Archbishops of  Bamberg. No nudity on the first night, then. Jist the odd hint of incest.

Here‘s the full list.




  • Eleanor Hope says:

    Did you know that the Israel Chamber Orchestra will perform in Bayreuth under their music director Roberto Paternostro on 24 July ?

  • When European politicians attend important openings, it is a symbol that culture matters to their societies. I hope someday that politicians here in America will want to be honored guests when opera houses open their seasons. It would be much more democratic than reserving our openings for mainly wealthy people.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    William Osborne: What is the point of having musically clueless politicians attend concerts and opera? INHO, musically indifferent high profile audience members are a distraction. If we want to raise the public profile of culture, I would think that greater presence on TV would he more effective.

    In Bayreuth’s case providing tickets selectively is extremely unfair to those who care. I was for two decades one of many frustrated ordinary mortals who were mostly unable to between tickets: I ordered tickets annually between 1979 and 1999 (I stopped primarily for personal reasons, and because I generally got tired of Eurotrash stagings). I only missed 1-2 years in the early eighties. The result: I was only offered tickets once, in 1995.

    • In Europe it is quite common for politicians to attend openings because almost all of the funding for the arts comes from the government. Many European politicians are quite literate culturally, so it is inaccurate to call them clueless. They attend as a symbol of the community’s commitment to the arts.

      I can understand your frustration at not being able to get tickets to Bayreuth, but please remember that Germany has 83 year-round houses while the USA doesn’t have any. Even the Met only has a seven month season. Altogether, America only has about six real houses. In Europe, the average price for the best seats in opera houses is around $80, while in the USA it is over $350.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        I don’t think of, say, Hans Dietrich Genscher as clueless, because he has been a Bayreuth regular, both while in power (as Germany’s foreign minister) and in retirement. But a large number of prominent politicians show up only while in office. Sorry, I can’t take those politicians seriously as opera goers.

        Regarding the unavailability of Bayreuth tickets to ordinary mortals, GW gave some convincing arguments. The number of German opera houses is unrelated.

        Also, please check your facts about German opera houses. Please name one year round company. The one I can think of that comes closest is the Bavarian State Opera, which closes only in August and early September. Aside from major opera houses (e.g. Bavarian, Hamburg, Berlin Deutsche Oper and Staatsoper), most are state theaters that present opera and ballet alongside theater. More opera is performed in Germany than in any other country, but your facts are inaccurate and misleading.

        • My facts are correct. Most German houses, of course, close for a short period in the summer so that the musicians can take a *paid* vacation. They thus perform about 11 months a year, and the musicians receive salaries for 52 weeks. (The length of pay is generally taken as the measure of season length.)

          In terms of performances per capita per year the USA is in only the 29th position, and is outranked by almost all European countries. The low ratio for the USA is because of our short seasons and lack of houses. The Met only has a 7 month season. San Francisco and Chicago about six. Houston is even shorter. Santa Fe is six weeks.

          After that, we hardly have any more opera houses. In terms of performances per year, our National Opera in Washington (our national joke) is in the 128th position, while little Pforzheim Germany with only 119,000 residents is in the 68th. Tiny Pforzheim thus outranks our nation’s capital by 60 postions.

          In Europe, ballet is generally interspersed with opera performances thus making the opera season continuous. This is normal for almost all opera houses. Most houses also have a series of symphonic concerts interspersed with opera. Big houses like Munich and Vienna often do up to 8 performances a week. By contrast, a city like Miami with a metro population of about 5.5 million doesn’t even have an opera house, much less one with a year-round season.

          For the stats I mention, see the Operabase website at:

          One could argue (rather pointlessly) about how cultured European politicians are, but their presence at openings representing the government and its support of the arts is very important. What a different world from the USA, where a major company like the NYCO has all but ceased to exist as a significant company due to a lack of funding.

  • GW says:

    The greater problem is not the large handful of free tickets given to prominent politicians on opening night (which could probably be resolved, with no complaint, by insisting that these guests pay the full — albeit massively subsidized — price for their tickets) but the fact that the vast majority of seats are held back for either the large contingent buyers (read: effectively resold as great profit when repackaged by tour organizers) or given away outright by the management as favors in their “Vitamin B” (B for Beziehung = relationships) regime. The actual number of tickets available for sale to the general public via the extremely opaque wait-list–cum-lottery system is apparently as low as 14% for premieres and 40% for other performances.