Breaking: Petrenko’s ‘partner’ pulls out of Bayreuth

Breaking: Petrenko’s ‘partner’ pulls out of Bayreuth


norman lebrecht

June 27, 2015

Anja Kampe has cancelled this summer’s appearances as Isolde after a reported row with Christian Thielemann.

She is to be replaced by Evelyn Herlitzius. Kampe will, however, sing Sieglinde in the Ring, conducted by Kirill Petrenko.

Bayreuth press statement:

The direction of the Bayreuther Festspiele notes with great regret that Anja Kampe returned the part of Isolde for this year´s new production of “Tristan und Isolde”. The termination of the contract was mutually agreed. The direction of the Bayreuth Festival is very happy to announce that Anja Kampe will none the less sing the part of Sieglinde under the musical direction of Kyrill Petrenko.

German media have identified Kampe as the companion of Kirill Petrenko.


The disaffection between Thielemann and Petrenko may lie behind these late changes.


  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    First Eva Maria Westbroek, then Anja Kampe, and now Evelyn Herlitzius – three Isoldes, without a single note sung at performance. Like three Norns. When will the rope snap?

    Who knows, we will hear of a fourth Isolde before opening night…. Looks like Herr Musikdirektor Thielemann is in a bad mood this summer. But then, that is mere speculation – the only thing which can be said with certainty when writing about the current dysfunctional state of Bayreuth and the self-destruction it engages in.

    Why not have a real immolation at this year’s festival end, get the whole Wagner lot out (including Thielemann, who can sulk in Dresden), shut it down for a couple of years, and reopen under a whole new structure and artistic and administrative leadership?

    Of course, Wagner family members could still come – as regular and single ticket buying audience members. Or otherwise, let them occupy “Wahnfried”, under the condition that it will be renamed “Wahnsitz”.

  • Max Grimm says:

    This alleged fractiousness and at times outright bellicosity of Christian Thielemann is becoming very tiresome. While he certainly wouldn’t be the only conductor who behaved in this fashion, one would expect at least a certain level or professionalism (I shan’t hold my breath however).
    As for Evelyn Herlitzius taking over the role of Isolde, that too is regrettable. Personally, while I admire her talent and ability, I have never been fond of Mrs. Herlitzius’ voice, finding it rather on the “lean” side.

  • James Jolly says:

    It may come down to that. Yet it will be difficult to reconcile what fans want – conservative stagings with top-notch singing – with what the contemporary opera establishment is willing to offer (“new interpretations by the likes of Baumgarten and Castorf, with singing optional). And an old-style despot like Thielemann might be just the one to lead an old-style festival. But it’s a safe bet that he’s not helping matters at the moment.

  • rambonito says:

    Do you really know the reasons of that? I guess no. So please stop your gossip bazar, anyway it seems that you’re in many cases extremely bad informed. And please let also Petrenko private life in peace. He is not the kind of guy who llikes this level of comments. A few weeks ago you mixed up Vasily and Kirill and thought the black horse would be Jurowski.

  • william osborne says:

    Interesting that there’s so much press about the Thielemann/Petrenko soap opera, while not a word is spared about the lack of women in the Bayreuth orchestra. Women represent only about 5% of the personnel. The ratio in the winds is 62 to 2. In Germany, that’s nothing to be concerned about, nothing to report.

    • John Borstlap says:

      When I attended the festival in 2013 and, in the first interval, leaned over the Schalldeckel to have a look into the sunken pit, I was shocked to observe not only 1 woman, but no Chinese, no Africans, no Russians, and a mere 2 Italian Wagner tuba players (which, though, I had suspected while listening).

      • Hans-Dieter Glaubke says:

        Can anyone spot, hopefully, a bit of gallows humor in this trite obsession?

      • Bridgewatcher says:

        Why lean over the Schalldekel – all the names and origins of the orchester are published in the Festival Book

    • jaypee says:

      Any change about the number of African-Americans in the top-5 orchestras in the USA?

      Your obsession with the number of women in German and Austrian orchestras is getting tiresome, btw.

      • Novagerio says:


      • william osborne says:

        The number of African-Americans in US orchestras is very similar to the number that graduate from music schools. The ratio of women in Bayreuth is about 1/15th the ratio that graduate from German music schools.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Der alte Sturm, die alte Müh’!

      • william osborne says:

        Yes, with the recent troubling press remarks about Jewish conductors in Berlin the “alte Müh” seems slow to disappear — and no place more than Bayreuth.

        • Peter says:

          There are no troubling press remarks. Three journalists have mentioned Petrenko’s jewishness, none have criticized it in any way.
          Those three are Lange, Brug and Lebrecht.
          What exactly is troubling?
          Troubling in my view is, that people do not comprehend context anymore, but bark in Pawlowian reflexes when they stumble across the word “jewish”.

          • norman lebrecht says:

            Troubling in my view is that you cannot see that Lange and Brug have problems with KP’s being Jewish.

          • Peter says:

            I really do not see it, German is my mother tongue. It’s not what they have said. Lange has played with Adorno’s ideas multiplied with the Wagnerian dualism Wotan vs Alberich. It really is not what you think it is.
            Brug is just careless, by placing the “jewish” qualifier next to gossipy trivia about sexual innuendos, anybody who knows Brug knows he is not anti-semitic. After all he is working for “Die Welt”, a Springer outlet, an principled pro-zionistic media corporation, who’s CEO feels free to public describe himself as a “non-jewish Zionist”. Brug would not see another day at “Die Welt”, were he in any way anti-semitic.
            Then it gets of course more complex, when at the same time, said CEO is also a big admirer and personal friend of CT.
            Maybe its just as complex as Wagner’s own ambiguous relation to Judaism.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          William Osborne:
          Yes, with the recent troubling press remarks about Jewish conductors in Berlin the “alte Müh” seems slow to disappear — and no place more than Bayreuth.

          In your recent, unusually nuanced comments in the other thread (here:, you said that with careful reading, those remarks were not “troubling” at all, if maybe a little unfortunate. No you are saying they are. So what is it?

  • Grimmige Weib says:

    this behavior from Thielemann has a long history, I witnessed him threaten a gifted administrator for being ” disrespectful” as long ago as 1994, after he arrived to conduct Beethoven 9 and immediately fired two world class soloists before the first rehearsal. his instability and manipulation so are not a secret.

  • Una says:

    What a dreadful way to define this soprano – ex-partner! Why has she been given such a demeaning title? She is a human being in her own right, not living out of the back pocket or even on the back of someone else.

    • Malcolm james says:

      Normally I would agree, but the fact that she appears to be Petrenko’s partner is very relevant here. Thielemann and Petrenko have fallen out, Petrenko has got the BPO job which Thielemann coveted and Thielemann seems to be taking it out on Petrenko’s partner. Which doesn’t reflect well on Thielemann and really tells you why the BPO were very wise not to choose him.

  • erich says:

    Thielemann has fought with and ejected a long line of managers and intendants throughout his career. He is incapable of working ‘with’ someone but only accepts yes-men (and women). He is unable to treat the people who are actually there to help him with any respect and just expects subservience. Yes, there have been despotic conductors before, but not one other comes to mind without seemingly an ounce of human feeling towards anyone except Frederick the Great and totally devoid of a sense of humour, unless perhaps that of Schadenfreude is a total anachronism in today’s world.
    Yes, he is very talented in a limited repertoire, which is why he continues to be engaged, but the trail of destruction he leaves behind each time speaks volumes and will mean that he may end rich and famous, but very probably lonely and despised.

    • John Borstlap says:

      As we know, the best results are got from orchestral players if they feel supported, stimulated and respected. The fury of a Karajan, who at one stage wanted to bind a rope around the BPO and burn them, is no longer considered an effective preparation for a good concert performance.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Nor was it in the days of Karajan. It is well known that although he was a somewhat shy and distant person, he maintained a good relationship with most of the orchestra for a long time, until things went sour in the early 80s, and that he often looked after them when they had problems or in need of special medical treatment. He also used the full weight of his influence to get several substantial pay raises for the orchestra out of the Berlin city government, that and the many recording projects made them the best paid orchestra in the world at the time.
        The story with the rope and burning them has a bigger, humorous context which you are apparently aware of. Generally, the mood in Karajan rehearsals was calm and relaxed but concentrated and professional. He waqs very demanding, but he never shouted or humiliated players.

  • harold braun says:

    Embarrasing!!!!And that´s about the only thing to talk of Bayreuth…..Artistic standards have been slipping for long,ridiculous stagings getting in the way of proper musical performances most of the time.There are enough better Wagner performances elsehere.Bayreuth lives on its myth rather than the performing quality.Mr.Petrenko is a wonderful conductor and conducted marvellously there.It makes me sad that he,a shy ,honest and deeply private person,has to face the tasteless gossip and embarassing behaviour of some pompous and self aggrandizing people there.He will find his luck elsewhere.

  • Mahlerfan says:

    Im not sure about Thielemann, is he trying to emulate C.Klieber? He might get the Vienna job ? As for Petrenko, have the Berlin Phil made a wrong choice, he’s an opera guy through and through. I saw him do Elgar 2 few years ago and it wasn’t up to much. The great thing is, we don’t have to watch/listen to Thielemann or Petrenko if we don’t want to.

    • Ppellay says:

      Hmmm…… their own way Karajan and Abbado were opera guys through and through too, and I don’t believe such a background did the Berliners any harm, or am I missing something?!
      Btw, I heard that Elgar 2 under K. Petrenko, and I thought it was bold, exciting and refreshingly devoid of self-indulgence. If his ascendance to the Berlin Phil means we’ll be hearing more of him, that’s fine with me!

  • erich says:

    The Vienna job is a notorious ‘ejector seat’ and much greater conductors than Thielemann have been unceremoniously dumped or have thrown in the towel. Even though he is loved in Vienna as a guest, the knives start being sharpened as soon as someone gets an official job. With his personality I could see a very short reign indeed!

    • Jimmy says:

      I think that Thielemann will remain in Dresden. He appears settled there and I think he enjoys the relative calm there compared to what would be a goldfish bowl in Vienna. He is a person who seriously guards his privacy and I don’t think he’d like the constant media attention there.

  • NYMike says:

    Here in NY without much to go on except what I can read on various blogs, I’m guessing that the BPO had strong reasons for not choosing Thielemann.

  • Cynical Observer says:

    Another Thieleman hissy fit? I thought that Divas were on the stage not in the pit. Still, the snake pit of Bayreuth seems ideal for him. Katherina and Christian, the most toxic duo since Cosima and Richard themselves? As for Ms Kampe and Mr Petrenko. Human beings will find there are more attractive places than the fetid cesspit inhabited by the poisoned dwarves of the Green Hill.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    Thielemann has just been announced as Music Director in Bayreuth. Funny they shouild have waited so long, as everyone seems to have known for ages, not least the person who made the parking spot sign.

  • Gary Freedman says:

    On with the show!!

    • Gabriel Tevan says:

      Now, THAT”S a great philosophy that we, as performers, and humans, all need to act and live by, in order to rise above whatever our immediate circumstances may be. No four worded artistic call to arms speaks the truth and serves more powerfully as the perfect antidote and remedy to the occasional negative skirmishes and foibles of human nature within any artistic setting in which so many individual passions merge and join for a mutual artistic cause…thank you so very much for enlightening us all, Gary! 🙂