Bayreuth raps Thielemann over Katharina Wagner’s health

Bayreuth raps Thielemann over Katharina Wagner’s health


norman lebrecht

May 14, 2020

Christian Thielemann said at the weekend that the Bayreuth boss was making a good recovery after withdrawing from the festival.

Not so, says the festival today.  

Katharina Wagner is still ‘seriously ill ‘and will not be able to resume work in the forseeable future.


  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    I have been reading Cosima Wagner’s diaries. From what I have read I am convinced that Richard Wagner would have disapproved of most of the productions overseen or directed by his descendents or anyone else for that matter working today.

    • Tamino says:

      Not sure why you think Cosima would be the most trustworthy source when it comes to relaying her husband’s artistic intentions. I would actually advise anyone to filter her out, or put her in the perspective that is appropriate, to get to the bottom of Wagner’s intentions. Most of which is probably to be found in his actual art, not in his convoluted non-musical diatribes.

      • John Borstlap says:

        At the end of his life and after the 1st and 2nd Bayreuth festivals, Wagner complained that he never found the stagings really satifactory, and joked that in the future he would write for the ‘invisible theatre’. He planned to write symphonies, and kept a couple of sketches for that purpose in a special file. He discussed the idea with Liszt, who – with his symphonic poems – had already pioneered into that direction, post-Beethovenian integrated symphonic writing.

        From the operas one can easily conclude that Wagner had an integrated approach, i.e. visuals and music forming an integrated, organic whole, and together presenting the drama with double force. All attempts to deviate from an integrated approach are violations of the work in question.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      Kinder, schafft Neues

      • John Borstlap says:

        And that was a superficial and thoughtless saying which has done much harm. Because, what is meant by ‘Neues’? In relation to what? New in which sense? Such expressions merely drove minor talents to give priority to originality over quality, and the history of 20C music shows the results.

        Wagner himself explained his concern about the relationship between the personal and the collective in his Meistersinger, which celebrates tradition (and arranged marriage, by the way). Brahms, who represents the pinacle of tradition in the 19th century, was fond of Meistersinger, and of Rheingold and Walkure.

      • Escamillo says:

        He didn’t mean ‘butcher my works and turn them into something I never intended’. He meant ‘create your own works from scratch’. But of course that requires hard work and genuine creativity. How much easier to muck around with established masterpieces. The works produced at Bayreuth these days are not Wagner’s at all; they just have Wagnerian soundtracks.

        • John Borstlap says:


          But new works are never created from scratch, they are mixes of different elements that exist already. Even the apparently totally new comes from somewhere, only with a twist: Beethoven, Chopin, Wagner, Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky – all worked with nostalgia.

          • Escamillo says:

            There is a major difference between earlier influences on new works and the mangling of old ones. Let the ‘revisers’ present their concoctions as their own, or as reworkings, not as works by the original creator. Honesty in authorship and marketing would be a start.

        • a colleague says:

          but the thing is, no one is forcing you to see any production that may not meet your criteria. one person’s trash may be another’s treasure…

          • John Borstlap says:

            I LOVE Regietheater, the less it looks like the original the better! at least you get the feeling that you are looking at something new, and it makes you forget the music and that’s where it’s all about, isn’t it? I prefer to go to a Cosi which is different from the Cosi I saw before, I want to see new operas, not a rehashing of the old one I’ve seen already. You also never read a book twice!


    • Gary Freedman says:

      I recall reading Cosima saying words to the effect, “R. said, ‘Now that I have invented the invisible orchestra, I should like to invent the invisible stage!” Wagner was joking!

      • John Borstlap says:

        Wagner’s jokes often were double-edged. In this one, there is a truth: the music saying so much more than can be staged satisfactorily.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Thielemann advocates lower fees for top performers with the compensation arrangements for singers:

    “Thielemann schlägt vor, die hochbezahlten Künstler bescheidener zu honorieren als diejenigen, die für die kleinen Rollen vorgesehen waren.”

    Such äusserungen I have not seen from other international top performers in these times. Which says something about how music life has been run.

    But did Thielemann also mean himself included in the ‘top performers’, I wonder, or did he mean exclusively the singers?

    • John Rook says:

      Concerning Bayreuth, there’s not a great discrepancy between small and large roles. Someone singing a Kleinmeister, an Edler (or, rather ‘Edlen’) and a Knappe(n) can easily go home with more in their pocket than someone just singing a main role.

      Broadly speaking though, he’s right. It’s not the Kaufmanns et al of this world who will be suffering right now, it’s the myriad jobbing professionals who have had the carpet pulled from beneath them. Had they been better remunerated over time they might have been better able to deal with the effects of the questionable political decisions taken concerning the flu bug.

  • John Rook says:

    This is bad news. She’s young but has not always taken the best care of her health. I wish her a full and speedy recovery.

    • RW2013 says:

      You know her better than I do, but that excessive bodybuilding that she indulged in with her former partner probably didn’t help.

  • Escamillo says:

    Frankly, Katharina has been out of her depth but her successor might not want to rely on yThielemann. No wonder he is anxious to see her back in charge.

  • Olassus says:

    If BR Klassik were a proper news organization and not just a hollow organ, it would investigate and report to us what exactly is wrong and happening. Instead its story yesterday, the one Norman links to, raises many more questions than it answers.