Kirill Petrenko: Why I can’t carry on at Bayreuth

Kirill Petrenko: Why I can’t carry on at Bayreuth


norman lebrecht

March 26, 2015

The highly-regarded music director of Bavarian State Opera has been telling German media that Bayreuth has demanded too much from him these past three years.



‘In a Bayreuth season I conduct 14 performances,’ he recounts – three complete Ring cycles, plus extras, four to six hours a night. ‘The next morning, every muscle hurts.’

He can’t remember what it’s like to take a summer holiday. July and August are taken up by Bayreuth. Two weeks into September the new season starts in Munich.

‘Two weeks is not long enough to recover. If Bayreuth had given me just one opera, I might have lasted five years.’


  • Milka says:

    Poor Petrenko so overworked by greed , boo hoo…….there are millions of people who can’t
    imagine a summer holiday ever but toil on just to make ends meet . Stay with one house
    and there will be time to sooth aching muscles during summer holiday .

    • DLowe says:

      And I’d imagine they moan too. Save your impassioned defence of the working class for an appropriate forum

    • Ks. Cristopher Robson says:

      I increasingly think you need to go and get your head felt! What a ridiculous response you give here. I have a feeling that, if the chance ever arose, were you to spend a month with a conductor like Petrenko – day in, day out – you would actually gasp at the demands put on him. He deserves every penny that he’s paid (whatever the sum may be – I have no idea personally). Having worked with many fine conductors over the years, I can attest to the fact that it is an incredibly demanding job both physically and mentally for those who are good at it and who care about their craft. I have seen close up how they are affected by their work, how stressed they can get, how exhausted, how pissed off, how overjoyed, and how much time they really have to put in just to get things done.

      You should be ashamed of making such trash comments. What REALLY is your problem???

      • Mlka says:

        First ,I don’t deny him any money he makes,however well you think he deserves it. He
        gives us BS about how hard he works for it with his second job at Bayreuth..If it is
        too much for his delicate nature …cut back to the first full time job .REALLY is
        about greedy conductors spreading themselves thin then complaining publicly that
        they are overstressed and overworked …simple answer … cut back, shut up .That you
        find sympathy for a greedy weepy conductor like Petrenko is your problem.

        • Ks. Cristopher Robson says:

          Oh dear…. I get the feeling that you really DO need to get your head felt. I won’t argue with you, it would be fruitless. But I really get the impression that you DON’T KNOW what you are talking about when it comes to Mr Petrenko.
          BTW, have you tried Alka Seltzer? Or should you perhaps treat yourself to some Milka chocolate to cheer yourself up? 🙂

  • Novagerio says:

    Praise to Petrenko! At least he’s honest. If he feels he can’t musically give EVERYTHING in Bayreuth, then it’s better to back off and concentrate all his energy on his daily job at the Bavarian National Theater.

  • Nigel says:

    not much sympathy I’m afraid.

    BTW : is nobody taking about Boulez at 90 today ???????

  • MacroV says:

    I congratulate him for recognizing that he’s overworked. So he should take care of himself and slow down. Looks like he can afford it.

  • Andrew says:

    I read this completely positively. How many conductors are willing/able to say NO to Bayreuth at the age of 43? I know many, many musicians who have stated to me first-hand that working with Petrenko is the highlight of their current musical lives, and that he lives solely for the music. After performances he is known to go back to his desk with a recording of the performance and makes notes for himself and the performers, so as to improve the next show. Perhaps this sort of insight into his working style and work ethic explains this decision a little more fully. This is most definitely not a ‘woe is me I’m so tired’ type of situation. He cares for the music – and for his own well-being – enough to say NO.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      This is accurate. It’s more about the demands Petrenko puts on himself than those from any other quarter. At Bayreuth he attends pretty much every stage rehearsal in its entirety and consecrates almost all his remaining time to score preparation. His muscle strain after every performance is unsurprising as his body is tense the entire time, yet that’s a personal choice. Whether or not it’s a sustainable business model is another question entirely.

      I also know of some very high-profile gigs he’s turned down because he didn’t feel he had the time to prepare for them properly.

    • Ks. Cristopher Robson says:

      Much closer to the truth than our friend above (Milka) would like to believe. 🙂

  • Harro says:

    Tempest in a teapot. I do not argue that he is overworked – but that was his choice. He can make a very nice living from his “day job” and if he cannot take the heat of the Bayreuth kitchen, he can get out of there.
    And yes, there is (and always was) such a thing as income inequality. Many people (had they had the talent) would be glad to “suffer” the pains Mr. Petrenko has for the dollars or euros he is paid. Just think – were Mozart alive, he would jump at it.

  • Dr Gérard de Botton says:

    I don’t accept he bitter comments I read about M. Petrenko. He is an outstanding conductor and the energy he puts in his work is worth the highest respect. Don’t think one second that a conductor is just a good looking man in tuxedo waving a baton in a dark hall. This is just the visible part of the iceberg. All the work they do is underneath the ocean and it can’t be quantified when you have to convince 120 musicians to do better than their routine work and give them the reasons to do so. It is often VERY difficult..

    In his reasons about leaving Bayreuth, he behaved with unusual respectable ethics. There was two reasons for this : first, he is the one that the Berliner Philharmoniker chose against Christian Thielemann (which understandably disappointed him very much), and second because of some quarrel Thielemann had with Anja Kempe as Katharina Wagner’s Isolde that ended in firing her from the production. Knowing that Anja Kempe’s name offstage is Mrs Kirill Petrenko, I would have done exactly the same thing if my wife’s honor were attacked.

    Moreover, Mr Petrenko has behaved very elegantly in not giving any name and taking the whole reasons for his dismiss on his own back. It is a quite honorable attitude. And it has nothing to do with money or greed for money. Now just one question, for the bad critics : would you write the same stupid comments if it was Jonas Kaufmann that had slammed Bayreuth’s door because of tiring overwork ?

    To end this discussion I have been lucky enough (but I gladly paid for that) to attend in one month Tristan in Bayreuth with a fantastic orchestra under Thielemann’s bâton AND Meistersinger in Munich under Petrenko’s. I shan’t make any comparison. But they both made me very happy with the work they do.

    Too bad, there can be only one winner at the Berlin Philharmoniker…