No-one can say that Katharina Wagner did not put up a good fight to save Wagner for the Wagners. She let herslef be groomed by her father Wolfgang to take over when he died and, while she accepted joint rule with half-sister Eva, it was only ever going to be a temporary arrangement. Wolfgang had left no doubt how the succession was to proceed.
But no-one said it would be easy for Katharina, and the past four months have probably been the worst of her life.
First came the sudden death of her confidant, the inscrutable Bayreuth press chief Peter Emmerich. Then this summer’s festival was wiped out by Coronavirus.
And finally, this week, Katharina herself was diagnosed with an unspecified ‘longterm illness’ that has removed her from the director’s job, apparently for good. Everything the Wagners stood for, everything they fought for, has gone.
So what happens now?
In a comment to Berlin’s Bild newspaper I summarised: ‘This is the end of the line. The last Wagner has left Bayreuth and the shrine is liberated. The past can be cleansed by letting independent scholars into the archives and the future can be reconstructed around principles that have nothing to do with bloodlines – only art.’
So what now?
The board will probably reach out to some of the more competent opera house managers in Germany to see if they would be interested in taking over on an interim basis. Bayreuth is not a job an opera-mad manager would readily pass by. There might also be a tendency to approach a successful recent director, someone like Barry Kosky or Tobias Kratzer, both of whom enjoyed public acclaim at Bayreuth.
There is also the possibility of an attempted putsch by other branches of the Wagner family, who have never taken their expulsion lightly. And there might also be a recall from the board on a consultancy basis for the experienced Eva.
It really is all up for grabs.