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Katharina Wagner just gave her first interview since her declarating her candidacy to run the Bayreuth Festival with Christian Thielemann...
Below the full interiew from Frankfurter Rundschau (my translation):
Mrs. Wagner, you have announced that you want to lead the Bayreuth Festival together with Christian Thielemann. What makes the couple of you irresistible?
It is not about being irresistible or not, but about presenting a concept, which is both artistically and economically founded in reality. Both Thielemann and I already held administrative positions beside our artistic work and consider ourselves capable in that field as well. However we would not in principle oppose a third person who supports us, in the leadership team.
What qualities should this third person have?
It would be very helpful for both Christian Thielemann and me, if a third person focusing entirely on the economic aspects of the festivals was part of the team. That could be something like a commercial managing director, a position which have been filled successfully in other opera houses. If it were practically feasible, we would not oppose such a construction.
Could you imagine that person to be Eva Wagner-Pasquier or Nike Wagner?
Only with difficulty [in german: Das kann ich mir nur schwer vorstellen]. This third person would have to occupy a strictly administrative role, because the artistic side would be taken care off by Thielemann and me.
What about someone like Peter Ruzicka[german composer and previously artistic director of the Salzburg Festival]?
That is one name, but there are also others - look for example at the opera house in Frankfurt, or look the model Thielemann has applied in Munich, which he has Mr. Müller at his side.
In your concept you are very clear: In Bayreuth only the traditional 10 works of Wagner will be played?
That is not completely correct. A new management can not decide alone whether it wishes to expand the repertoire. It is against the Festival Foundation- for such projects you´ll need a majority in the Board of Directors as well. Apart from that, it would be totally irrational to play things in Bayreuth which do not benefit from the special acoustics of the Festival House. Therefore Thielemann´s suggestion for public "listening auditions" in order to examine these issues are needed. But this is a rather marginal issues - the core concept is much more important.
But exactly in Bayreuth it is close to being a core issue. Which visions are possible with only one premiere a year and a fixed repertoire?A more boring director job is hardly available?
But that is exactly the attraction and challenge of Bayreuth: That there is only ten works and a limited Festival period. We want to preserve the “myth of Bayreuth” in all its complexity and contradictoryness, not uncritically but neither seeking to destroy, rather to examine its relevance for our time. On the one hand we seek to preserve, on the other hand we seek continuously to develop. It would be a lie to promise: “I´ll make everything completely differently.” A new leadership cannot promise that without placing everything in danger.
It is however not entirely clear, which changes you actually want to make? Or is everything to basically remain the same?
Bayreuth must assume the role of artistic pioneer with daring interpretations again. We have, as you correctly state, only one production a year - but we must get simply the best artists. Of course it is also about arranging the run of performances according to dramaturgic considerations. On the other side we need a new public structure. We cannot assume unfortunately that the Bayreuth Festivals is sold out constantly for the next 50 years . Therefore we urgently need a new marketing concept.
How is that supposed to look?
Without getting too much into detail, I would nevertheless like to say that it is important us to make the Bayreuth Festival more accessible, also for those not being able to personally attend the Festival. It is about making the Bayreuth Festival accessible to a broader public.
But that doesn´t that contradict your main purpose, the keeping of the myth? Which is nevertheless also based on the uniqueness and exclusivity of the Festival.
Of course, but it also raises the question again and again, by which means should I my goals? And regarding the transmission we have today far more possibilities than in earlier years. We should use those, we live in 21st century. The “real” performances remain those in the Festival House of course, which are the basis of everything else. But even if we have an interested public and a sold off house in the future, we must reach the people,“at home” where they are - and cannot be done anymore without DVD and Internet. You may induce curiosity only if you give people a sample.
Mrs. Wagner, that all sounds beautiful, but the vision cannot alone be to open Bayreuth to the multi-media?
No, that is only one means [of obtaining funding]. We understand that the public donations cannot be increased further. Thus we need concepts in the futures capable of attracting a new clientele. We are concerned to reach additional sponsors, besides the for many years faithful Friends of Bayreuth in order to obtain the artistically best performances, without however completely commercializing The Festival. I favor a sophisticated and balanced middle course.
We nevertheless talk about the art. Although you were praised for your “Meistersinger”, there were criticism at the artistic achievement - at singers and orchestras. How do you want to guarantee that the Festival also musically belong to the front?
With Christian Thielemann we without doubt have the presently best musician in this fach. And regarding musical quality, the hasty criticism of the artists disturbs me. A conductor like Sebastian Weigle, who conducted led the “Meistersinger”, is definitely among the best - and he has previously been selected "Conductor of the year" by the renowned periodical Opernwelt. I find it hasty to jugde so quickly [he got very bad reviews for his conducting in Bayreuth this year]. Wait for the repremiere next year, and you´ll see. We plan to get the absolute best and most prominent conductors to Bayreuth, with whom the singer´s will love to work. Naturally you must do this intelligently, and not alone go after large names.
At the same time however, you brought amazingly old names into play: Barenboim, Harnoncourt, Neuenfels. The departure point of the recent generation probably looks different.
Now, the names mentioned are not completely insignificant and in any case they have much valuable experience. Should we leave this unused? But we think naturally at the same time also of clearly younger artists, such as Andres Nelsons from our generation. Young artists are not easy to find, and one must also observe their development. And that is also one of our major tasks, because the seasons are to a large extent preplanned until 2015. Therefore we also contract certain people from early on to the house, in order to develop ourselves together with them. It is perhaps also necessary to say to a young conductor at times: “Assist nevertheless one year here with us, even if at other houses you have already conducted the Ring - we still intend do do more work together in the future.” Only so may another “myth” develop, the one of a musical family.
The daring family is in the meantime quite blown up. Bayreuth threatens to lose the interpretation sovereignty. Each province theatre plays his works…
It unfortunately often happens that one brings strong conductors together with weak directors, or vice versa. I believe, Boulez and Chéreau with The Centennial Ring should not be a unique case. We must make that the normal case and achieve a scenic and musical level in Bayreuth which you do not have in other places.
But Wagner has now become a house-hold name..
And since more theaters play Wagner´s operas, talented artists are easier recognized. One must hear and see.
Why did you actually apply by an interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine for the leadership and not by a letter to the donation advice? How is your relationship to this Board of Directors?
All are interested in a peaceful solution to these issues. Since this is a situation we find ourselves in for the first time in the entire history of the Festival story, of course it is a difficult process, that cannot be expected to be complete without some problems and discussions. Surely everyone understands that. For Christian Thielemann and me, it is neither about personal vanities nor about any questionable “power”, and we feel jointly responsible for Bayreuth and would gladly take more responsibility for the Festival. We do not have push ourselves in front of others. We consider the Festival too important and necessarily and unique - why should we lie - we love it. We went to the public, because already many assumptions and speculations had begun, but since the Board of Directors had not introduce the procedure for the follow-up yet, we cannot apply officially.
Do you become open to attack by having made this public application?
Perhaps, but that never interested me that so much, because as an artists worst thing you can do is to be tactical or make work in order to please. Open to attack are probably everyone who present with ideas in public, we probably may be, but the public has is a right to know what we think and what we stand for. And neither me or Christian Thielemann want to keep our plans in secret - also, because we are of the convictions that we do not benefit at all from shying away from public scrutiny.
ehh..I am a bit baffled of this opening up to a third person. She seems to dismiss E W-P since the position will be only administrative, but welcomes a reknowned German composer and former artistical director of the Salzburg Festival? In a purely administrative capacity??!! Nevertheless I still see this as the opening for Eva W-P as a suspected would happen yesterday..
..and I fail to see the acute need for marketing strategies based on the assumption that one obviously cannot expect the house to be sold out in 50 years...well...here in Bayreuth, I´d say you can exactly expect that...what she is going about is probably new ways to finance the Festival independent from the Friends of Bayreuth....
the seasons are to a large extent preplanned until 2015 an argument against her older competitors Eva Wager-Pasquier and Nike Wagner. I simply do not believe that. Perhaps the 2013 Wotan and Brünhilde are slated, and other key figures in major productions but I´d say not much more that that. Would be very surprised if the 2014 Kundry, Gurnemanz, Parsifal, Ortrud has been hired yet... or even the 2009 Siegmund. Or the directors for these performances.
Nice of her to stand up for Weigle - it did sound like he could use some more time to get used to the unique Bayreuth Festival acoustics
And this repeated statement that Chéreau/Boulez was a unique case - what about Kupfer/Barenboim or Heine Müller/Barenboim or Jürgen Flimm/Sinopoli...As high quality as The Centenary Ring I think....
And finally: They want to attract the best singers and conductors. And what about Wolfgang Wagner? Didn´t he want to attract the best singers and conductor? Or his stated goal was perhaps just to created a mediocre festival... Just saying that it will require a good deal more than relatively cheap talk to turn this Festival around.