Who has conducted most at Bayreuth?

Who has conducted most at Bayreuth?


norman lebrecht

September 22, 2019

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.



  • Chris says:

    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

    • Esther Cavett says:

      What about Boulez ?

    • Esther Cavett says:

      How many times did Boulez conduct there ?

      • Novagerio says:

        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.

      • John Rook says:

        Eighty-five times, I think: Parsifal 1966-70, The Ring 1976 – 1980 and Parsifal 2004-5.

    • Novagerio says:

      Chris: Karl Muck lead all Parsifal performances between 1901 and 1930. Surely, he should be on the list…

      • olivia nordstadt says:

        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

    • Novagerio says:

      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.

  • John Rook says:

    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’.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Question ought to be: Who has conducted best at Bayreuth?
    For starters I nominate Knappertsbusch, Keilberth and Schneider.

    • Petros Linardos says:

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

    • Tamino says:

      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?

      • olivia nordstadt says:

        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

        • John Rook says:

          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.

          • Petros Linardos says:

            @ 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.

          • Novagerio says:

            Petros: Knappertsbusch was 63 in 1951.

    • Novagerio says:

      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 !)

  • Rodney Coleman says:

    Continue to conduct
    You have no superior

  • sam says:

    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).

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I’ve heard a story of Karajan asking “Wie heißt der Amerikaner”? in reference to Levine, for Salzburg.

      • Ken says:

        HvK and Ronald Wilford were way too close for this to have been remotely possible (unless the Maestro had early onset dementia in 1975. And we know his memory — if also the prejudices — was spectacularly intact at that point.) Apocryphal.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          The story about Karajan not remembering Levine’s name and referring to him as “the American” may or may not be true, but I nothing wrong with it. Any human being can have a memory lapse, and I don’t think Levine was that well known in Europe in the 1970s.

          • Novagerio says:

            “Not remembering the name of this and that” was Karajan’s way of endorsing and promoting the young conductors.
            “That young Indian…”! “That young American…!” Etc.

      • Tamino says:

        more likely referring to Bernstein with that phrase, since Karajan saw him, and only him, as a rival.

    • Stuart says:


    • Enquiring Mind says:

      Thats how people talked before it was assumed such a reference must be insulting.

    • M McAlpine says:

      Certainly apocryphal like many of those
      Karajan stories. Karajan never engaged anyone at Bayreuth as he wasn’t there after 1952

  • Rodney Coleman says:

    Continue to conduct maestro
    I will try to attend a performance

  • John Rook says:

    The very long and extremely interesting interview is worth reading.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    And according to https://www.bayreuther-festspiele.de/en/the-festival/statistics/ Barenboim hasn’t conducted there for 20 years. So he really crammed those 160 performances in.

    Mark Elder only conducted there once. Chemistry must have been wrong.

    • John Rook says:

      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.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

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

  • Pedro says:

    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.

  • a colleague says:

    na, und? yeah, so?

  • Nick2 says:

    I was at The Ring conducted by Horst Stein in 1971. He took it all like an express train. Hugely disappointing.

  • Ken says:

    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.

  • Ken says:

    Sorry, 63 Ring performances. 5×12=60+3=63.

  • Jack says:

    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.

  • Brian Bell says:

    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.

  • Rob says:

    You can’t have quantity if you don’t possess quality.

  • Nick says:

    It is the QUALITY (not quantity) that really counts!