Stephen Fry’s Wagner expert is banned from Bayreuth

Stephen Fry’s Wagner expert is banned from Bayreuth


norman lebrecht

December 20, 2020

The German pianist Stefan Mickisch has been fired from the Bayreuth Festival and denied access to its archives after making an ugly analogy between the anti-Hitler resistance and his own views on Coronavirus.

He posted this quote by the wartime martyr Hans Scholl: ′Nothing is unworthier of a cultural people than to let themselves be ruled without resistance by the dark instincts of an unaccountable clique.’ Mickisch then reposted this sentence unaltered as his own Covid stance.

Mickish, 58, has previously referred to ‘Corona fascism’ and called for resistance to police enforcement of Covid rules.

Mikisch took charge in 1998 of the introductory piano recitals to Bayreuth’s opera programme. In 2010 he made his first TV appearance as a Wagner expert on Stephen Fry’s BBC documentary, ‘Wagner and Me’.

He has been accused in some quarters of whitewashing Wagner’s anti-semitism.


  • Jay Bee says:

    What a dimwit.

    • Gustavo says:

      Yes, I agree: Dr. Sven Friedrich should have faced the challenge by continuing the debate with Mickisch rather than by avoiding the debate through issuing a disciplinary measure like in the bad old days, in a frantic atempt to distract from the facts about Wahnfried.

  • MacroV says:

    Why the need – aside from the usual clickbait – to tie this guy to Stephen Fry? They worked together 10 years ago! Are we all subject to being tainted by a work connection with someone from any time in our past?

  • Alan says:

    The man is perfectly correct. Witness Europe going into Lockdown meltdown because of an apparent Covid 19 variant.
    Go figure. It is what a virus does.

    • William Safford says:

      I assume that Europe wants to do a better job of handling the pandemic than the United States has.

      • Mandy Mozzarella says:

        Don’t you have funerals to attend?

        • William Safford says:

          Not this week, glad to say. The two people I know who were recently sickened by COVID-19, are currently on the mend. I hope they continue to convalesce.

          Plus, funerals are themselves possible superspreader events. The mother of a friend of mine died last week, not of COVID-19. The funeral was attended by only immediate family.

      • John Borstlap says:

        For guidance, Europeans look to the USA and then try the opposite.

  • Hayne says:

    Just from reading the post, I must say freedom of speech (whether one likes it or not), is disappearing at an alarming rate in the West.

    • Lilas Pastia says:

      Freedom of speech is the right to speak one’s views without fear of repercussions from the authorities.

      Hans Scholl was guilliotined for his views. Stefan Mickisch walks around in freedom, and is free to state his views. but he has been refused entry to a private foundation.

      The reason for this is given by the head of the foundation, Dr. Sven Friedrich:

      The reasons give are his allures and his tasteless comparison of the current government of Germany and the Hitler regime.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Nonsense. In my experience, people are invited to express themselves without as less as possible inhibition, to demonstrate their civilised values, like [redacted].

  • marcus says:

    one of the dubious benefits of this sodding lurgi is to expose in sharp relief how many tin foil hat wearers there are

    • Birchley Poundbottom says:

      That the actual point you make is so unintentional is almost as delicious as the koolaid you drink. Please sir jester, another!

  • RW2013 says:

    Brilliant man. Hi from Berlin (your last Parsifal talk).

  • Jake says:

    Let’s hope that Günther Groissböck, who has made many similar comments, is next on the chopping block.

  • Micaela Bonetti says:

    Can we continue espress ourselves freely???

    • John Borstlap says:

      We have the liberté to express ourselves with égalité, to conform to the fraternité.

    • Novagerio says:

      Micaela: We are facing the new Dark Ages, where anyone who doesn’t follow the crowd/the flock will be burned at the stake for expressing the slightest controversy or honest scepticism.
      People out there are desperate in different measures. People with secured monthly payment and/or pension don’t seem to understand that.
      We have seen this throughout this Annus Horribilis with BLM-sympathisers bashing monuments and erasing history and memory (or at least trying to). And not all current miseries are the fault of Covid-19.

      • Micaela Bonetti says:

        Gentile Novagerio,
        First of all I hope I did understand well your point!
        True, I’m now secured with a pension, but believe me, my long life as a professional musician was no path of roses…
        And I payed the highest price, always, in my professional life, for being honest, sincere, totally dedicated to my art, very high indeed, you hardly could imagine how high…
        But I would’nt change one single word, action, done during my career.

      • William Safford says:

        You confuse being held accountable for what you say, for not having a right to say it.

        One shouldn’t be surprised if one is called out for repeating a falsehood, or for saying something offensive, etc.

  • Micaela Bonetti says:

    May I advise french-talking SD’s readers to watch this interview of Nobel Prize Professor Luc Montagnier?
    (France-Soir, last Dec. 17. Sorry, I’m not able to insert the youtube link).
    Another french doctor has already been put into psychiatric asylum.

    • Guest says:

      Is this the one?

      • V. Lind says:

        How are you people unable to make a link from YT? It’s a doddle.

        • Micaela Bonetti says:

          Gentile Signora, Signor V. ,
          Quando avrà fatto come me una carriera di canto e di pianoforte, avrà insegnato in un Conservatorio per 40 anni, parlerà correntemente cinque lingue, come me, vedremo se avrà anche ore da dedicare al computer.
          Besides, you are very welcome to be my guest and teach me how to use at best a computer.
          Sorry to be that ignorant and disappoint you soooo much.
          Micaela Bonetti.

        • John Borstlap says:

          I once included a YouTube link in an email to a friend who worked at the BBC and suddenly all the fuses went blop in the Broadcasting House and left the building without energy for 48 hours. And it was merely a video of Pli selon Pli. It’s dangerous!


  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    Covidiots will be covidiots. That’s par for the course.
    But covidiots masquerading as resistance heroes, as martyrs — that’s disgusting. Alas, in Germany and Austria, it’s also the pose that minions of the Far Right and those whose faculties have been impaired by the rotten miasma of an undigested past are increasingly resorting to. That’s emetic.

    Will our Möchtegern-hero relinquish — schriftlich, bitte — his ICU bed to a more meritorious victim of Covid-19, should he get his well-deserved comeuppance ? Will he waive his ventilator ?
    Will he die a martyr — to covidiocy ?
    Somehow, I doubt that he would have the courage of his convictions, should he be confronted with their dire consequences for his own precious self. But I’ll be glad to be proved wrong.

  • AngloGerman says:

    I disagree with his comments, but that is no reason for such extreme a reaction as this. Certainly, Wagner himself would not have agreed with such a firing as a result of some (albeit misguided) comments regarding COVID-19. The situation has been difficult for everyone and people should be given some amount of slack.

  • Gustavo says:

    I am tempted to say that Wagner himself was one of the greatest “Querdenker” ever.

    And the fight against this virus is expression of mankinds ongoing group-selective struggle for life.

    The high-tech western industrial world is safeguarding its own medical resources to ensure survival, strictly following Darwinian principles.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Yes, they all immediately began to study ‘The Origin of Species’ when the news got around that three innocent Chinese in Wuhan ate poisoned bat soup.

  • M McAlpine says:

    With such a public health crisis, the man is such an idiot he is not worth the space.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    Please no more publicity for Stephen Fry. The “stupid person’s idea of a clever person”. And anyway that program was a decade ago.
    We don’t need celebrity names to make us click, you know

  • John Borstlap says:

    A pompous fool, also in Fry’s documentary.

    • RW2013 says:

      Borsty, you mistake pompousness for SM’s disdain at having to dumb his comments down to accomodate Fry’s naive appreciation of Wagner’s music.

      • John Borstlap says:

        It’s also that, but he was all too keen to show-off about himself, entirely uninvited and inappropriate. If he had had a serious disdain for Fry’s level of appreciation, he simply should have refused to cooperate. So, he simply used the occasion to spread a tiny little bit of reflected glory of the composer. Wagner’s work often attracts that sort of types.

  • panther says:

    I guess he wont be receiving the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves any time soon

  • Gustavo says:

    The ultimate cause of the pandemic is global human mobility and migration: international Wagner Festspiele, Salzburg, the MET etc.

    Stefan Mickisch’s house (Salon) concerts are the format of the future!

    We need more culture at the decentralised regional scale, e.g. exclusive private performances of Lohengrin in hidden grottos for the intellectual, not for the masses.

    Bayreuth’s green bump has become the global Mekka for superficial Wagnerianism. It is a centralistic model that will not survive the new reality following mankind’s “war against nature” and in view of the global environmental crisis.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Interestingly, Wagner himself was all for reconsidering Nature, and how Man should deal with it. For him, Nature was something Man had to reconnect with, and he had a deep scepticism about and an aversion against the developing scientific world view. His long wanderings in Swiss alpine landscapes went linea recta into his operas. He had a holistic nature that wanted to embrace the entire creation (except the irritants). He had a warm heart for people (excluding the people he did not personally like), a passion for natural phenomenae (except storms and rain periods which negatively affected his mood), and especially Woman (except women who did not understand him and/or his work), and Animals (except the dogs who bit his hand so that his composing was interrupted, and the mice which saturated his Triebschen villa). He was very much aware of the damage the industrial revolution and the emerging mass capitalism was doing to culture and humanity in general, that was why he was strongly against wild capitalism (except when it positively affected his owh bank account). He sensed the profound problems of modernity as it began to develop in the 19th century and that is why he is still relevant today, I would say: more relevant than ever (except his antisemitism and schopenhauerian pessimism). By the way, he was a really nice man with whom it was jolly drinking (except when you contradicted him).

  • Robin Worth says:

    It may worth adding, for those who do not read German, that Dr. Friedrich’s attack on Mikisch is not just for the single issue of the use of the Hans Scholl quotation. He criticises his behaviour and attitude over a period of time.

    I have no idea of who is right or wrong, but Dr.Friedrich’s language is that of someone who feels wounded and justified in being outspoken, and in a way which seems unusual in German cultural circles

  • Fernandel says:

    Stefan Mickisch’s Merry Pranks often remind me of Maradona’s ones.

  • Trish Benedict says:

    It breaks my heart to hear this. I have his Ring analysis set and I think he’s brilliant. But this sort of behavior is unacceptable. It’s a typical MAGA argument, calling people who know something about science and public health “Nazis” or “sheeple” for telling them to avoid people and wear a little piece of cloth on their face. My father went to the South Pacific to fight for 3 years after Pearl Harbor and his brothers went to Europe & Italy to fight the Nazis and fascists. Today’s creampuffs can’t even cover their mouth and nose to fight a virus.

    But why taint Stephen Fry with the association? I’m a Wagnerian, I despise Verdi (their operas, not the men – Verdi was clearly the superior human, while Wagner was clearly the superior composer IMHO :). I have listened to the Mikisch Ring analyses many times – and I probably won’t ever again because of this. I’m frankly horrified that he said that – and that he referenced a personal hero of mine, Hans Scholl.

    But is redemption possible? I’d like to have him say that he was having a bad day or otherwise apologize for his tweet. And do you think the Germans in general, given their recent awful history, perhaps have a default reaction to objecting to government dominance? Don’t know. I am from California, I’ve only been in Europe perhaps a dozen times (mostly for Wagner or Mahler) and we have a different Zeitgeist here, so I can only sadly speculate.

    • Jerry Lindelef says:

      Let those of us who never say irresponsible things judge…

    • So, the fact that Mikisch was correct in his analysis of today’s manufactured crisis, and that he showed admiration and respect for those people who had the courage to oppose Hitler’s genocidal dictatorship justifies condemning the wronged pianist? If someone could explain why he was being morally condemned, it might clarify the issue, but there is no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part, unless it be his criticism of the current medical tyranny we are being subjected to.

  • “Ugly analogy?” Today’s lockdowns are as much of a dictatorship as any totalitarian regime, and Mikisch was quite right, and courageous, to show up the current “crisis” for the Draconian medical tyranny that it is. May his soul be at peace.

  • By being banned, the unaccountable clique showed its true face; the hypocrisy is staggering.