Why Eva Wagner Should be Banned from Bayreuth

That’s this morning’s headline in Die Zeit, spinning the line that is coming from Eva’s half-sister, Katharina, and her conductor sidekick, Christian Thielemann. It appears they have succeeded in banning the former co-director from the festival, and for reasons that have not yet been made clear. The word in Vienna is that no-one is telling the truth.

The absurdity is that the Wagners cannot see that the musical world now regards Bayreuth as rat-poison and serious artists and patrons will be striking it off their summer agenda.

katharina wagner

 

 

Here’s the text (auf Deutsch):

Was ist denn nun die Wahrheit? Die einen sagen so, die anderen so, und selbst die Dritten, die nie etwas sagen oder lange nichts gesagt haben, rühren die Trommel. Verstehen aber tut niemand, welches Theater auf dem Grünen Hügel von Bayreuth 50 Tage vor Eröffnung der Festspiele gegeben wird. Erster Aufzug: Festspielleiterin Katharina Wagner und ihr Intimus, der Dirigent und Bayreuther Musikdirektor Christian Thielemann, wollen Eva Wagner-Pasquier, die Co-Festspielleiterin, offenbar loswerden – und zwar noch bevor deren Vertrag am 31. August endet. Weil Evas Sängerbesetzungen zu wünschen übrig ließen, weil sie haarsträubende administrative Fehler gemacht haben soll und weil die persönlichen Verhältnisse derart zerrüttet seien, dass sie den Burgfrieden gefährdeten, gerade in der sensiblen Probenzeit.
Also wurde noch im vergangenen Jahr beim Stiftungsrat etwas erwirkt, von dem jetzt, da es greifen müsste, keiner weiß, was es sein soll: eine “Freistellung” Evas von allen Kompetenzen, wie bei Machtwechseln nicht unüblich? Ein Haus- oder “Hügelverbot”, wie es 1975 Wolfgang Wagner über seine Mutter Winifred verhängte, nachdem diese sich vor Hans-Jürgen Syberbergs Kamera liebevoll an den “Führer” erinnert hatte? Ein ordentlicher Beschluss der vier Gesellschafter zur Causa liegt nicht vor. Ist alles also bloß Popanz, Schmu, halbherzige Drohgebärde? Der Bund als Gesellschafter hält sich in Sachen Bayreuth traditionell raus, der Freistaat Bayern schweigt, der Rest sind Dementis. Kulturpolitische Verantwortung sieht anders aus. Überhaupt ans Licht gekommen ist das Ganze, weil sich Eva und ihr Anwalt Peter Raue – zweiter Aufzug – durch den fehlenden Beschluss nicht länger an die vereinbarte Vertraulichkeit gebunden fühlten. Flugs machten via Süddeutsche Zeitung allerlei Briefe und Dokumente die Runde, und ausgerechnet die scheue Eva, die sich kaum je öffentlich äußert, steht nun, ohne konkret in die Offensive zu gehen, als die Nestbeschmutzerin da, die sie niemals sein wollte.
In Gestalt der Bayreuth-Dirigenten Kirill Petrenko (amtierend) und Daniel Barenboim (gewesen) folgt der dritte Aufzug: “Würdelos”, ja “menschenunwürdig” sei der Umgang mit Wagner-Pasquier, um ein Haar hätte Petrenko sein Engagement für diesen Sommer noch aufgekündigt. Schlechter kann die Stimmung auf dem Grünen Hügel also gar nicht sein, zumal sich der Kartenverkauf für den Ring wie für den Fliegenden Holländer schleppend gestaltet. Immerhin ist Eva Wagner-Pasquier nach ihrem Urlaub am Dienstag ungehindert in ihr Büro gelangt. Der oberfränkische Atridenfluch aber, der über den Wagners und den Festspielen lastet, wird auf Dauer nur durch gute, ja durch bessere Kunst zu lösen sein. Dafür stehen auch die Gesellschafter in der Pflicht, gerade in ach so heiklen Personalfragen. Sie müssten sagen, was gelten soll.
VON CHRISTINE LEMKE-MATWEY

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  • At this point one can only speculate, but I think the scenario is becoming clear. In the agreement made that established Katharina and Eva as co-directors, Eva was put in charge of casting. Thielemann insists on doing his own casting, so Eva must go.

    As the article notes, this is not the first time a restraining order has been issued at Bayreuth. In 1975, Wolfgang Wagner issued a restraining order against his mother, Winifred, after she publicly praised Hitler. (Winifred was born British, but adopted by German relatives when she was young.)

    Winifred’s husband, Siegfried, was secretly bisexual and showed little interest their marriage. Many believe that Winifred and Hitler were lovers. In 1933 there were even rumors of a possible marriage. None of this history will be confirmed until the 278 letters between Winifred and Hitler are released, which are currently in the hands of a family cousin, Amélie Lafferentz, who is keeping them secret.

    During the 50s, Winifed received guests notable for their Nazi associations such as Emmy Göring, Ilse Hess, Gerdy Troost (wife of the Nazi architect Paul Ludwig Troost,) the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, and other prominent Nazi politicians.

    • For those interested, Amélie Lafferentz (the woman with the 278 letters) was the eldest child of Bodo Lafferentz, a high ranking SS officer who married Siegfried and Winifred’s daughter Verena. Bodo was on the staff of the “Race and Settlement Central Agency” whose mission was to insure the racial purity of the SS. In the town of Bayreuth he founded the “Institute for Physical Research”, an outpost of the Flossenbürg concentration camp, to develop the V-2 rocket. Bodo Lafferentz also organised the Bayreuth “War Festival.”

      • Verena is also still alive, so if Amélie has inherited those genes I don’t see much chance of those letters getting released any time soon…

      • Thank you for another critical WWII reference. It is absolutely essential to ensure that no one ever forgets how steeped the green hill is in Nazi sentimentalities. No doubt it will help us continue Wagner’s legacy and ensure that everyone to the end of time will listen to Wagner and see red swastikas.

        • When the Nazi history of Bayreuth is fully researched we can then move on. That would include the release of those 278 letters.

  • Very interesting. Lemke-Matwey is well known as Thielemann’s unofficial hagiographer but this article is scrupulous in not apportioning blame but also not exhonorating anyone.
    The truth will out…..

  • Could be. The casting issue also caused tension in Dresden between opera director Eytan Pessen, and designated Intendant Serge Dorny. Both left… Thielemann succeeded. The power over artistic decisions issue also caused Thielemann to leave Munich, when he didn’t get his will.

    • ThIelemann’s problem is that he is lazy and normally wants to go the way of least resistance with his soloists. He hates rehearsing so the less time he spends working with soloists and directors he doesn’t know, the better. Thats why he mostly chooses yes men and women.

      • Cobblers… Thielemann has all the top singers queuing up to work with him. Look at who he has worked with over the last year!

      • Why the hatred? He obviously ticks psychopathologically different than the mainstream, but he is respected as one of the few conductors who can still create sound.

  • The Bayreuth Festival’s WWII history is, frankly, old hat and irrelevant to what is happening today. What really matters now is the absurd presumption that dynastic relationships can equip anyone to run anything – empires or opera festivals. This is a pre-WWI way of thinking, and the sooner the Bayreuth Festival is put in the hands of professional managers the better. It is worth noting that at one point Richard Wagner seriously considered doing so with Angelo Neumann, the (Jewish) impresario who had done more than anyone to disseminate performances of the Ring throughout Europe and for whom Wagner had the greatest admiration as a manager. Needless to say, Cosima was horrified at such an idea and took the reins herself on her husband’s death, something that Wagner could never have foreseen. Perhaps the Festival should go into mothballs for six years (as between 1876 and 1882) and reopen with a clean slate and a new management.

    • Until the 278 letters between Winifred and Hitler are released, the Nazi history of Bayreuth, far from being “old hat,” will not even be fully known.

      • That’s your assumption, but realistically no major new insights are expected, except news about Adolf’s German shepherd’s diseases and the progress of Wieland and Wolfgang in school.
        We already know that Winifred and Adolf were very close, that Winni sympathized with Nazi ideology and we don’t need to read their letters to know that.
        Bayreuth’s history is known and we need to look into the future.
        Wagner’s music is bigger than all this.

        • With so much controversy surrounding Wagner, his family, and Bayreuth, every bit of factual documentation will be of help. No reasonable scholar would discount the value of 278 letters between Hitler and Winifred.

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