Comment: Conductor comes last at Bayreuth

Comment: Conductor comes last at Bayreuth


norman lebrecht

June 30, 2016

Andris Nelsons’ stunning walkout from this summer’s Parsifal illustrates a deep-seated crisis at Bayreuth. Andris loves the festival. It gave him his first international break, caused him to be spotted by Birmingham and has generally given him pleasure and professional satisfaction throughout his fast-track career.

He did not quit lightly.

From the little we know of the true cause, he was not too keen on the Parsifal production and he was even less enthusiastic about uncalled-for interventions by the festival’s music director, Christian Thielemann. Whichever of these reasons triggered the walkout, it’s unlikely Andris will be back any time soon.

Nor will Kirill Petrenko.

He announced last year that he was leaving Bayreuth because it used him as a workhorse, will scant regard for his needs and wishes. His girlfriend went on to pull out of the Ring after a clash with Thielemann.

That’s how things are at Bayreuth these days. There is a leader. You do things his way, or you find something else to do with your summer.

Nelsons and Petrenko will not go short of offers. Other maestros will steer clear.

bayreuth sign


  • Olassus says:

    Love that photograph!

    • Jaybuyer says:

      Stunning! At first I thought it was photoshopped, but Wikipedia tells me that the Bayreuth Psychiatric Hospital has 464 beds for in-patients. Quite a capacity, but perhaps necessary for the increasing number of Ms Wagner’s victims. Then there’s always the Jobcentre! Wonderful!

  • Rain Man says:

    Saxon state government are you paying attention for Thielemans’s contract negotiations? Never give Thielemann executive power beyond his own productions and concerts, never ever! Never unleash the beast.

  • mario lutz says:


  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    Anja Kampe and Petrenko have not been an item for years, and certainly weren’t one when she pulled out of Isolde. Petrenko’s comments about Bayreuth have been the subject of another thread and have more to do with the strain under which he puts himself, rather than the fact of conducting three Ring cycles in five weeks, which is what every designated Ring conductor has done in Bayreuth for decades.

    Nonetheless, Nelsons’ departure is maybe a portent for common practice to come, now that CT has more power than ever before.

  • DESR says:

    Do we dare to hope for an announcement that ‘Christian Thielemann will conduct all performances of Parsifal’?

    If so, bliss!

  • Hermann Lederer says:

    The quotation of Petrenko is a complete fabrication. Nonsense! And Kampes outgoing (she was recently announced as Brünnhilde in Thielemans Easter festival in Salzburg)had only one reason – the same as Nelsons: Katharina Wagner

  • Tim Walton says:

    Good for Andris. It’s about time the Amateur ‘Hitler’ was put in his place. His head’s been too big for years.

    • Sue says:

      You know nothing about it; you weren’t there. Maestro Thielemann appears to be the head honcho at Bayreuth and it’s only to be expected that there would be ‘artistic differences’. There’s nothing more political and bitchy than in music circles.

      Nelsons reminds me of Kleiber – same conducting technique, passion and now, it seems, temperament!! Long live Nelsons AND the memory of the great Kleiber.

  • Halldor says:

    So it appears that Bayreuth is under the control of a charismatic monomaniac convinced of his own genius.
    This is unprecedented, surely?

    • Peter says:

      The originator WAS a genius. Today’s wanna be pocket dictator is just a minor “Kleingeist” stuck with infantile psychological disorders in comparison.

    • Tristan says:

      I am sorry but there is no genius at all in Bayreuth except a totally overrated horrible woman that keeps the name Wagner and a conductor with a small repertoire who is great with Wagner and Strauss but come after Kiril Petrenko whose Frau ohne Schatten was better than CT in Salzburg and whose Wagner also tops the German with no manners. Sadly he never got a proper education or like they say ‘Kinderstube’ – where ever he has worked he left and left a disaster – sorry guys this man is overall overrated and his Otello in Salzburg this year was the worst one can imagine – one year before that Cav/Pac was only a success cause the production and super start Jonas Kaufmann – Thielemann simply fails when it comes to italian repertoire and the way he casted Otello was horrible

  • Milka says:

    All of this is much ado about nothing by an ever shrinking audience who mean
    nothing in the scheme of world events and are full of second hand opinions.

  • Jean H says:

    In Russian, Bayreuth and Beyrouth are the same word …

  • Sue says:

    “His girlfriend” pulled out of Bayreuth, aye? It so happens Nelsons has been married for a few years now, so please get the facts right.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      @Sue: The article refers to Anja Kampe being Petrenko’s girlfriend, not Nelsons’s. In any case, it certainly wasn’t the case any more when Frau Kampe left the Tristan production in 2014.

    • Jaybuyer says:

      If you take the trouble to click on the link, you will see that Norman is referring to Petrenko’s ‘girlfriend’ Anja Kampe and not Mrs Nelsons, aka Kristine Opolais.

  • Sue says:

    @ Peter: the Oxford University had Thielemann lecturing there. The Time Magazine merely featured Hitler on the cover of the magazine. There’s no similarity at all.

    And I resent your conflating Hitler with Thielemann, just because the latter doesn’t conform to your bien pensant ideologies.

    • Peter says:

      I have no problem with Thielemann’s ideologies. I have a problem with his erratic and psychotic behavior backstage. Wherever he works, he relies on a system of intimidation and fear.
      When he has to play nice because he has no executive power, e.g. in Berlin and Wien, then the deterrence works and his disorder is under control more or less.
      But beware you give him executive power, as in Bayreuth, or if Dresden is stupid he will have soon there. He is a tyrant if empowered to be in charge of other people also off-stage.

  • Prof. Matthias Kuntzsch says:

    THOUGH given the 1st price of the 1984 “Bundesauswahl junger Dirigenten” we all in the
    Jury saw all this BIG MOUTH style of Mr. CT born in Berlin, not in Braunau…….he is not
    celebrating Reichsparteitage – only stiff musical events – – BORING… BRAVISSIMO Andris – – CARLOS KLEIBER for ever…….. Jury member Matthias Kuntzsch)