Berlin demands a say in the running of Bayreuth

Berlin demands a say in the running of Bayreuth


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2020

The federal culture minister Monika Grütters has said that she is concerned about the stuctures of governance at the Bayreuth Festival and is seeking solutions to its perceived fragility.

‘If you recognize difficulties, you shouldn’t put the solution on the back burner,’ she told a local newspaper, apparently in reference to the unchecked power of Katharina Wagner and her recent health crisis. ‘My concern is that there are sensible and effective structures in Bayreuth,’ said Grütters.

This is no small bombshell. The Berlin government ows 29 percent of the equity in the Bayreuth Festival and the Chancellor turns up every year to check that all is in order. Apparently, it is not.

Grütters went on to say that ‘the role of the family must and should be properly appreciated… In the past three years, Katharina Wagner has reorganized the Bayreuth Festival and also created a lot that did not exist before.’ However, she is seeking more sensitivity to audience expectations and greater responsiveness to the stakeholders. Grütters speaks with Merkel’s authority.

Katharina Wagner, who has no designated successor, may not sleep quite so easily after this.


  • Eduardo says:

    Merkel does not go every year to check that the money the government spends is being used properly. she goes because she likes Wagner. For Heaven’s sake!

    • Mr. Knowitall says:

      You’re certainly wrong. Last year I received a significant commission from a German-government-funded organization and a few months later Frau Doctor Chancellor Merkel dropped by my apartment to hear how the composition was progressing.

      • O.L.1987 says:

        This just made my day. Thank you for the chuckle.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Yes, I had the same thing. But her exposition of her opinions about 20C music rival Wagner’s incontinent chatter. However reserved she seems at press conferences, talking about music opens the bin of her enthusiasm about the art form. Also, she appeared to have a hilarious sense of humor, which she admitted was hard to ventilate at home.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Your statement should correctly read…
      „Merkel does not go every year to check that the money the government spends is being used properly. She goes because she Joachim Sauer, her husband likes Wagner.“

      • John Borstlap says:

        They both are fervent Wagner lovers. And the Bundeskanzlerin steered safely through many government crises after listening to her CD’s of Goetterdaemmerung first, and the last act of Parsifal second (both under Karajan), after which she picked-up courage again and mended the fractured party lines.

        She weathered the political storm after the 2015 refugee crisis after listening to her Meistersinger box 18 times in a row, which was even hard to take for her husband. But it was worth the effort.

        Wagner is wholeheartedly recommended to anybody suffering from life’s crises and/or heartbreak.

  • Fafner and his hoard says:

    The nature of the leadership of the Bayreuth festival has been a subject of discussion in Germany since the death of Wolfgang Wagner. Put simply, it has been questioned why a publicly subsidised festival should have hereditary directorship.

  • Hayne says:

    The German govt owns 29 percent equity in the Bayreuth Festival. I was told it was private. Oh well…

  • marcus says:

    Given the virulent anti semitism of Wagner himself I cannot see this festival remaining in existence in the current woke atmosphere beyond 5-10 years hence.

    • Rap-Sody No. 5 says:

      Attendees don’t attend the festival because of Wagner’s antisemitism. They attend because the music is some of the very greatest ever written. Despite his ugly antisemitism, which Katharina and company are doing much to confront head-on, and attempt to atone for, Wagner’s art is immense and timeless. Will the world stop reading Shakespeare, Joseph Campbell, Roald Dahl and listening to Chopin? No. We must separate the creators from their creations. As Stravinsky said: “I’m simply the vessel through which le Sacre passed.”

      • marcus says:

        Perhaps my initial comment needs clarification. I personally don’t think Wagner needs cancelling-simply being less than perfect would disbar pretty well everyone from everything if we insisted on that standard. What i meant was that given the extreme bonkersness illustrated elsewhere on this site (Beethoven 9 a manifestation of rape culture? WTF?) these SJW will be gunning for bayreuth sooner rather than later.

      • M McAlpine says:

        Some people consider the music great. Others consider the operas overblown and pretentious.

    • Patricia says:

      You underestimate the fervent lunacy of the people who go to Bayreuth every year.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Story goes that the audience is made-up of 90% of the inhabitants of the nearby Nervenkrankenhaus.

        Of course, that is not true at all. It’s merely 70%.

  • Mark (London) says:

    German Gov spends so much on orchestras and opera companies ! I should think it(tax payers) need to know about its administration etc

  • John Borstlap says:

    The picture shows Merkel trying to explain, with some irritation, to incredulous Dutch 1st minister Rutte, who had been in Bayreuth for the first time in his life, what an opera building is and who Richard Wagner was, and that he built it all by himself.