Who has conducted most at Bayreuth?

Me, says Christian Thielemann, with 179 performances and counting.

Next comes Daniel Barenboim, 161.

Peter Schneider, 150

Horst Stein, 140

Then a long drop to … James Levine. Below 100.


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  • Hans Knappertsbusch? He had been scheduled to conduct his 100th Bayreuth performance of Parsifal in 1965. The the Ring (is that 1 or 4?) several years, Meistersinger and Hollander

      • Boulez did Wieland’s last Parsifal 1966-70, the Chereau-Ring 1976-80 and yet a comeback around 2002 for Schlingenschief’s Parsifal. Not as many shows as you might think.
        Thielemann has done the entire Bayreuth Canon, from the Dutchmann to Parsifal throughout 19 festivals. Only one of the oldies from the early festival days did the same.

      • muck conducted Parsifal at every festival between 1901 and s930 but all performances at these festivals; other conductors of the opera during this period include Siegfried wagner, franz beidler, Michael balling and Willibald kaehler; in addition to the Parsifal performances, muck conducted a single lohengrin at the 1909 festival and all the Meistersingers at the 1925 festival

    • Chris: Kna died in October 1965, and his last Bayreuth service was the Parsifal in 1964 with Vickers.
      André Cluytens conducted the 1965 Parsifal.
      And Boulez took over in 1966-70.

  • What’s remarkable about Peter Schneider is that he was never given his own production on the Green Hill. His extraordinary total is comprised of having taken over from designated music directors when these either threw in the towel or were not invited back. A wonderful man and conductor, utterly devoid of ego yet unstintingly generous to his colleagues. Far, far more than just a universally-recognised ‘safe pair of hands’.

    • Sure, but no post-war Bayreuth conductor shortlist would be complete without at least Clemens Krauss and Carlos Kleiber.

    • Define “conducted best.”
      What are the criteria?
      It’s almost impossible to judge this. The outcome depends on too many factors, the conductor being a crucial one, but not the only decisive one. That’s even more so in Bayreuth than anywhere else.

      And wasn’t Kna dragging like a dead horse in front of the carriage at times, uncomfortable tempi for the singers?

      • one man’s dragging is another man’s monumental; interestingly enough, the timings for kna’s Parsifal in the 1950s were slower than they became during the 1961 to 1964 period; so much for the old saw about conductors slowing down as they approach the finish line

        • That’s true. We asked Boulez in 2004 if he was going to be as fast as he was the last time he conducted Parsifal in Bayreuth. He replied ‘Oh, you know, I’m much older, now’. He then went and actually knocked a few minutes off his record time.

          • @ Olivia
            Count me in the “monumental” crowd. Momentum is generally more important than tempo, and it makes a tremendous difference in Parsifal and in Bruckner Symphonies. Kna’s ability to keep slow tempos lively still has few equals and no superiors.

            @ Olivia, @John

            At 4h 33′, Kna’s 1951 Bayreuth Parsifal was as slow as James Levine’s 1990 Bayreuth Parsifal. The slowest known Parsifal was Toscanini’s: 4′ 42″, Bayreuth 1931.


            Knappertsbusch was 63 years old in 1941, Levine was 47 in 1990, Toscanini 54 in 1931: nice anecdotal evidence against the perceived association between slower tempi and old conductors.

    • Caravaggio: I’d say Muck, Toscanini, Elmendorff, Karajan, Knappertsbusch, Krauss, Keilberth, Cluytens, Carlos Kleiber, Horst Stein, Schneider and now Thielemann, who actually owns the place (talking about quality !)

  • I would have never guessed James Levine in 5th place.

    Who knew he had such an association with Bayreuth?

    There’s a story out there (probably apocryphal) that when Karajan wanted to engage Levine for the first time (for somewhere), he’d forgotten his name, so he just said “the Jewish guy” (or to that effect).

    • Quite a few conductors never went back after their first year. Since CT started conducting there the proportion has risen, it has to be said.

  • Peter Schneider, the boring conductor these days. I go out of my way to avoid his performances in Vienna, which puts one to sleep.

  • I have heard all the Wagner works that Thielemann conducted in Bayreuth except Parsifal. I hope to go there in 2022 for it, but I hope he conducts the opera in Dresden before that.

  • James Levine, 116. They actually asked him please not to surpass HK’s 56 Parsifals. So there were 53 of those and 53 Ring performances including the extra (required for the union) “geschlossene” Rheingold, Walkuere and Siegfried in 94-5-6. Schneider did the GD in 97.). And they count. When he left, he asked for his conducting chair to use at the Met — first time was “Les Contes d’Hoffmann,” of all things, in 2001 — and it has a plaque on the back citing this.

  • Does anyone know of a Web site that keeps this record? Esther’s excellent link to Bayreuth doesn’t seem to cover that one thing.

  • The Bayreuth database only begins with the 1951 festival.
    Karl Muck conducted Parsifal almost every summer from 1901 to 1930. Thielemann probably has a ways to go.

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