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Culture

Wagner Festival Starts Without Scandal

The 2004 Wagner Festival opened with a controversial production of "Parsifal" on Sunday. But despite some booing, many in the audience agreed that the director's work was an interesting and courageous interpretation.

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A bit of fake blood didn't shock anyone

Christoph Schlingensief had prepared for the worst.

Prior to Sunday's performance, the enfant terrible among Germany's theater directors had talked about plans to hide after Sunday to escape the wrath of his critics.

Christoph Schlingensief

Christoph Schlingensief

Schlingensief (photo) had expected the opening night to end in scandal after the lead tenor had called the production an abomination in a radio interview and festival director Wolfgang Wagner had asked that the use of a video depicting a decaying rabbit be toned down.

But the closest Schlingensief got to a scandal was a round of heavy booing as the director appeared on stage for a curtain call. At the official reception that followed the festival's opening in the northern Bavarian town of Bayreuth, the director and his team were cheered and welcomed with fanfares.

Wolfgang Wagner, the grandson of Richard Wagner, talked about a "successful performance."

"A very courageous staging"

Jose Manuel Durao Barroso in Bayreuth

Edmund Stoiber (left) with Jose Barroso

Even Bavaria's conservative political leaders were full of praise. While admitting that he needed some time to get his head around what he'd seen, Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber (photo) seemed pleased with Schlingensief's work.

"This is not a scandal, but a very, very courageous staging," who had brought along Jose Barroso (photo), the former Portuguese premier who will take over as European Commission president in November.

Schlingensief himself told reporters that he had not hoped for a scandal.

"We're relieved and very proud," he said. "We fought a lot and it's been worth it. We wanted to show Bayreuth unusual images and we've accomplished that."

Götterdämmerung nach Schlingensief

A rehearsal for Parsifal

French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez conducted the festival's opening night. He returned after a break of 24 years. Boulez conducted Patrice Chereau's legendary "Ring" between 1976 and 1980 and also a previous staging of "Parsifal" in 1966-1970.

A crowd puller

The festival will continue on Monday with the second revival of Frenchman Philippe Arlaud's staging of "Tannhäuser" under the baton of star conductor Christian Thielemann.

Wagner's mammoth four-opera "Ring" will follow, with "Rheingold" on Tuesday, "Die Walküre" on Wednesday, "Siegfried" on Friday and "Goetterdämmerung" on Sunday. Altogether, the festival will include 30 performances until Aug. 28. Demand for the 54,000 tickets was high again and festival officials said they could have sold almost nine times as many seats as were available.

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