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Music

Verdict in Wagner trial: Nike Wagner and co-plaintiffs lose

Part of the Wagner family took the festival and its organizing bodies to court - and lost. The Richard Wagner Foundation may continue to rent Wagner's Festspielhaus to Bayreuth Festival, Inc.

Announced on Wednesday, the verdict by a local court rejected the case brought forth by Nike Wagner, her siblings and Verena Lafferentz-Wagner. Nike Wagner is a great-granddaughter of the composer Richard Wagner, and Verena Lafferentz-Wagner is his only living grandchild.

The case was brought by this part of the Wagner family believing that it has too little influence both in the Richard Wagner Foundation and Bayreuth Festival, Inc. The former, founded in 1976, owns Wagner's inheritance - including both the Festspielhaus (festival theater) and Villa Wahnfried, Richard Wagner's one-time residence.

But in the statement released with the verdict, the judge said the court does not believe that the rental contract between the Foundation and Bayreuth Festival, Inc. damages the interest of the plaintiffs.

Nike Wagner (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Wittek)

Nike Wagner, who grew up in Villa Wahnfried, is director of the Beethovenfest in Bonn

In consequence, the Bayreuth Festival will essentially remain a public institution. Members of the Wagner family are represented in the Richard Wagner Foundation, which elects the festival director, but a large majority of votes are accorded to local, regional, state and national governments. State entities also own the majority of shares in the company that rents the theater from the Foundation and runs the festival.

The Bayreuth Festival was led until 2008 by Wolfgang Wagner, a grandson of the composer. Great-granddaughters Eva Wagner-Pasquier and Katharina Wagner were named his successors, and Katharina Wagner has been the sole director since 2015. Nike Wagner, who applied for the position unsuccessfully, has long criticized the festival direction.

Only operatic works by the composer have been performed at the Bayreuth Festival since it was founded in 1876.

rf/kbm (with dpa)