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Culture

Brawling in Bayreuth

Just days before the premiere of the feverishly awaited new staging of Richard Wagner's opera "Parsifal" at this year's Bayreuth Festival, the leading tenor hit out at the production and its controversial director.

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This year's festival starts Sunday

German tenor Endrik Wottrich told Bavarian radio that he was appalled by Christoph Schlingensief's directing and, while he would go ahead and sing the role of Parsifal this year as agreed, he would not make himself available for the role again next year.

"There's a lot of frustration" among the singers in Bayreuth, Wottrich complained.

Endrik Wottrich

Endrik Wottrich

Schlingensief, the 43-year-old self-styled enfant terrible of German theater, was simply trampling over Wagner's intentions, Wottrich (photo) said.

The staging was "an abomination" and the director and his dramaturge simply did not know the opera, according to the singer.

When Schlingensief had originally presented his ideas, "you could say, this will be good, this will be pleasant." But the director had not kept to his original concept and simply binned everything after his trip to Africa, Wottrich added.

A big mistake?

Christoph Schlingensief Säulenheilige

Schlingensief is known for controversial projects: During the 2004 Venice Biennale, he asked unemployed people belonging to a fictitious "Church of Fear" to sit on columns as saints.

While it had been extremely courageous of the festival's director, Wolfgang Wagner, to take on Schlingensief, who has never directed an opera before, in the first place, here was a man who only cared about his own whims and who pushed through his artistic freedom with legal means rather than any artistic authority, the tenor said.

Wottrich had even pulled out after just three days of rehearsal, but eventually agreed to come back "because you can't just find a Parsifal on the streets."

Nevertheless, the singer regretted it, he said.

"I was stupid enough to give in," he said. "It was a big mistake. I've just been through the most unpleasant rehearsals in my life."

Schlingensief (photo) meanwhile has said that he expects people to be upset after seeing his Parsifal version.

Christoph Schlingensief

Christoph Schlingensief

"I have to figure out where to hide afterwards, because a number of people will resent the production," he told German magazine Stern.

The 93rd edition of the Bayreuth festival, the annual month-long summer music festival dedicated exclusively to the works of composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) is scheduled to open on Sunday with a gala performance of "Parsifal", directed by Schlingensief and conducted by French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez. Schlingensief's new production has been making waves long before the curtain goes up, especially after the director publicly fell out with Wolfgang Wagner, the composer's 84-year-old grandson.

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