Bayreuth: It’s a Christian divorce

Bayreuth: It’s a Christian divorce


norman lebrecht

July 01, 2016

A year ago, the Bayreuth Festival had first call on three most sought-after conductors in Europe: Kirill Petrenko, Andris Nelsons and Christian Thielemann.

Now, they have one.

Ever since Thielemann was named music director by the festival’s chief, Katharina Wagner, relations with his two colleagues have been unsettled. Petrenko ruled out further cooperation with Bayreuth, blaming the festival for an overload of summer work. Andris Nelsons quit yesterday.

It is clear from all the leaks we are receiving that Nelsons’s walkout was provoked by Thielemann’s uncalled-for interference in his Parsifal preparations. Nelsons is generally an easygoing man. Thielemann is not.

Thielemann, however, has refused to take over Parsifal himself. Bayreuth is now ringing around for a credible replacement.

There is no sign that Petrenko or Nelsons will return any time soon.




  • John Borstlap says:

    T’s picture invokes vague reminiscences, but I cannot pin them down.

    Bayreuth has no other choice than trying-out a ‘newcomer’ who will not ‘threaten’ T’s local authority. He is a marvellous conductor, though, in spite of all the stories about him.

  • Jorge says:

    What a photo…seems like a behavioural pattern.

  • mario lutz says:

    an un married man it’s a divorce?? huumm,,,

  • Ganymede says:

    Almost like politics in the UK right now, though with fewer consequences … ūüôā

    I’m sure they find someone for Parsifal, in the end they have no one to blame but themselves for the continuing decline in artistic level …

  • norman lebrecht says:

    The photo was taken by an orchestral player, who sent it to Slipped Disc

  • Una says:

    Sounds like the Tory and Labour parties in Britain – a pile of in the main whinging and back-stabbing men …

  • Sue says:

    Bayreuth has been riven with scandal and bitch-slapping right from its very beginning. None of this is any way new. Get over it, everybody.

  • M_von_Kolinahr says:

    “Bayreuth is now ringing around for a credible replacement.” – how about Anthony Negus?? He does a really great “Parsifal” – seriously – just saying. (… Whether he would be at all available or sought after, or could also find his way around the Bayreuth acoustics in time, is another matter entirely, of course.)

  • John Borstlap says:

    ‘Erloesung dem Erloeser’….

    It is a real challenge. According to rumours, Thielemann intervened in Nelsons’ rehearsels, which is – of course – unacceptable. Also, new safety measures with guards ignorant of Wagner’s Weltabschiedswerk seem to have worked negatively on the conductor’s and singers’ nerves, creating a tense atmosphere different from the relaxed loftiness so beneficient to the Wagnerian wave length. The first performance starts at 25th this month – which conductor would be available in holiday time and would be prepared to jump into the mel√©e on such short notice? Ironically, Parsifal is in desperate need of a redeemer himself.

    • M_von_Kolinahr says:

      It’s a great pity, I heard Nelsons conduct “Lohengrin” six years ago and he was wonderful – very sensitive – am sure he would have done “Parsifal” proud as well, as others here have said. It’s indeed really very tight for time now… it’s a bit like the Melbourne “Ring” three years ago, when there, too, the conductor threw in the towel owing to artistic disagreements, and young Pietari Inkinen stepped in, again at very short notice indeed, and completely saved the day. Heaven only knows how they’ll solve it this time. (The photo is indeed hilarious, there was another one very like it, probably taken at the same time, that was used on Slipped Disc a few months ago!!)

      • RW2013 says:

        “threw in the towel”!!!!!
        Please check your facts here!

        • Bruce says:

          Might be a difference of understanding here about what it means to “throw in the towel.” Just sayin’.

        • M_von_Kolinahr says:

          I apologise, “threw in the towel” may not have been the most elegant expression here¬†– at the time, there were various accounts of “artistic differences”, etc., which ultimately led to the original conductor very sadly and reluctantly taking his hat and stepping down, after having very diligently prepared for the event over a period of two years and more. That’s all I can say.

          • RW2013 says:

            Was advised to “throw in the towel” is more like it.
            He should never have been engaged in the first place.

          • John Borstlap says:

            In the German media, ‘throwing-in the towel’ was the formulation.

        • M_von_Kolinahr says:

          Ah OK, I understand properly what you’re driving at now – thank you.

  • Gerhard says:

    In any case a brilliant headline!

  • herrera says:

    Now’s the chance for Bayreuth to open up to other equally talented conductors. van Zweden.

  • Mira O'Norma says:

    The picture reminds me of the late Liberal politician, Charles Kennedy.

  • George says:

    The New York Times reported that CT attended rehearsals at AN’s request. Why would one request the other’s presence if not to witness/hear something specific. There’s more to this story.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It must have had something to do with the way rehearsels are practiced in the theatre. The players in the orchestra can hardly hear each other so that ensemble playing is extremely hard, which means that everybody must always carefully watch the conductor (the brass who sit in the back, deep-down, can’t hear the rest of the orchestra). Also, the conductor has to signal the singers slightly out of phase with the orchestra to get them together so that they seamlessly combine with the flow of the music. The conductor cannot hear what the result is in the auditorium and for that reason someone, normally an assistent, sits in the hall and is keeping contact with the conductor through a telephone system to check the balance. Maybe CT has taken-on that job, and has been adding his own musical advices to the acustical ones, and that may have been offensive to Nelsons.

  • Tristan says:

    Bayreuth was so much ruined by those overrated Wagner half sisters that they won’t find a first class conductor – Bayreuth really lost it’s high rating and just think of their awful productions of Tannh√§user and The ridiculous RING – the current Tristan is nothing great either and the casts were bad too. No Stemme, no Kaufmann no Pape no no no – mostly second rate singers! Thielemann might be a great Wagner conductor (his Italian is mediocre, just remind you of a provincial Otello last Easter Festival!!!!) but he has no human qualities – he never should run any institution! He actually did fail all over! He should only be asked for some Wagner from time to time and maybe add some Bruckner, the rest is nothing special. Enjoy your summer and you may easily quit Bayreuth – no regret at all!

  • Edgar says:

    There are many other places to hear magnificent Wagner. Bayreuth, still succumbing to what it does best, has long ago lost the required musical and artistic qualities to pull of a decent Wagner performance. Not with going to, perhaps, on occasion, listening too (who needs those trash productions anyway).

    • Edgar says:

      Not worth going to, perhaps, on occasion worth listening to. Apology for typo.

      • Pedro says:

        Yes! In Dresden. Cnducted by Thielemann. Last May, Lohengrin was musically excellent – the best for me since Karajan in 1984, during that year’s Salzburg Easter Festival.

  • Peter says:

    The succession of Wolfgang Wagner should have been the turning point for the foundation board to change from family cabal to a solid appointed and professional artistic administration. This kindergarten Kati and her sand box buddy and bully Christian are playing, with tax payer’s money, is to be stopped better sooner than later.
    Otherwise Bayreuth will be nothing but “verbrannte Erde” soon. As always where little Christian was allowed to play and make the rules.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Bayreuth was originally meant as a ‘gift to the nation’, but because the nation was not much interested, Wagner being a very controversial man, the enterprise became a private family business. Wagner had no choice but to see his son as his successor, much like a baker would see his bakery be taken-over by his son on retirement. In the 19th century, Wagner’s work was experienced, by very many people in music life (and beyond) as a disruptive intrusion into the art form; his poilitical ambitions for his work made it impossible for it to be accepted by the status quo.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The picture has been removed because the descendents of Mr Hitler complained about it.