Boardroom coup at Bayreuth

Boardroom coup at Bayreuth


norman lebrecht

June 21, 2020

With a power vaccum in the absene of Katharina Wagner, the board has replaced veteran chairman Toni Schmid with Bavaria’s former finance minister, Georg Freiherr von Waldenfels.

Schmid had been pullng the strings for so long at Bayreuth no-one can remember when he joined the board or how old he might be.

His successor, Waldenfels, has been on the board of the Society of Friends of Bayreuth since 1999. He is 75.

Bayreuth remains a closed shop, paid for by the state.




  • And slowly the state will take it over.

    • Escamillo says:

      Richard Wagner tried desperately to persuade the state (both Munich and Berlin at different times) to take it over, but without success.

    • Prommer says:

      You wish! I fancy not. These things are all in hand.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That would be best. To keep the festival a family affair is absurd, with such a common good.

    • I should add that in many respects this wouldn’t be anything unusual. For about the last 150 years, as feudalistic dynasties died out, the governments in Europe often took over their architectural legacies, mostly magnificent castles, manors, and garden parks. In a sense, through its church tax, the state in Germany also insures that historic church buildings are well maintained. The family legacy at Bayreuth was a beautiful thing, but from the outset it was on tenuous ground. The Bavarian State Opera in Munch shows that Bavaria knows how to run an opera house and we should be thankful for that.

    • Martin Snell says:

      The State has done so already. Katharina Wagner is an employee with no ownership rights to the Festival, as was previously the case under late father, Wolfgang, who was akin to a alone ruler. This has been the situation since 2008, prompted by the death of Wolfgang’s second wife, Gudrün. To all intents and purposes the Festival management now has the structure of a Stadttheater. Katharina’s role is the equivalent of an Intendantin, or artistic director. The ownership of the Bayreuth Festival is vested in four stakeholders, respectively the German Federal Government, Bavarian State Government, the City of Bayreuth, and the Gesellschaft der Freunde von Bayreuth, originally founded by Richard Wagner himself. With ca. 5,000 members it is the largest and wealthiest Mäzenatum, or patronage circle, in Germany.

      • Prommer says:

        I think I am right in saying that the Festspielhaus itself remains the property of the Wagner family? Or is that not so?

      • Escamillo says:

        That may be so, but why employ Katharina whose only claim to fame is her family connection. The Festival has gone to pot since she took up the directorship.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Or, in the words of Wotan, and Erda’s prophecy, “Das Ende … das Ende,” preferably as delivered by Hans Hotter.

    Once finances and housekeeping details are sattended to, able artistic management is next. It’s too important to Bavaria and the city of Bayreuth. If only Ludwig II were alive, and in his right mind.