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Culture

Wagner's Great-Granddaughter Booed at Berlin Opera Debut

Katharina Wagner, the 27-year-old great-granddaughter of composer Richard Wagner, was booed at the premiere of her new production of Giacomo Puccini's three one-act operas, "Il Trittico," in the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

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Wagner's staging of Puccini's "Il Trittico" didn't go down too well

Wagner, tipped to head the world-famous Bayreuth festival when her 86-year-old father Wolfgang Wagner steps down, was loudly booed by the glittery first-night audience, while the soloists, including Cristina Gallardo-Domas as Sister Angelica, and conductor Stefano Ranzani, received rapturous applause.

In the audience was Wolfgang Wagner himself, German President Horst Köhler and Berlin's mayor, Klaus Wowereit.

Puccini Oper Suor Angelica in Berlin

Cristina Gallardo-Domas (center) as "Suor Angelica" in Wagner's production

"Il Trittico" (The Triptych) comprises three one-act operas, each about one hour long, that are loosely interlinked by themes of morality.

No record of success

It was only the fourth time that Wagner has directed an opera and the first time that she has staged an opera in Berlin, which boasts three major opera houses, the Deutsche Oper in the west and the Staatsoper and Komische Oper in the former communist east.

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Katharina Wagner during rehearsals

Katharina made her directing debut in 2002 with a surprisingly irreverent, but ultimately patchy reading of Wagner's "Der fliegende Holländer" (The Flying Dutchman) in Würzburg.

The follow-up was a staging in Budapest of another Wagner opera "Lohengrin" in 2004.

Next came a staging of a little-known work, "Der Waffenschmied" (The Armourer) by Albert Lortzing, at the Gärtnerplatz theater in Munich in 2005, which was mercilessly panned by the critics.

Wagner is scheduled to direct a new production of Wagner's "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" (The Meistersinger of Nuremberg) in the composer's holy of holies, the legendary Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, in 2007.

Succeeding her father?

The series of high-profile engagements appears to be fast-track training for Wagner to take over the running of the Bayreuth Festival, the annual month-long summer music festival dedicated exclusively to the works of her great-grandfather, when her white-haired and autocratic father retires.

92. Bayreuther Richard Wagner Festspielen

Katharina Wagner (right) with her mother, Gudrun, and father, Wolfgang, while welcoming guests in Bayreuth

The Wagner family is bitterly divided over who should run the festival, with Wolfgang's other daughter by an earlier marriage, Eva Wagner-Pasquier, and Nike Wagner, the daughter of Wolfgang's late brother Wieland, both laying claim to the throne on Bayreuth's fabled Green Hill.

But despite her youth and the mixed reception of her directing projects so far, Katharina Wagner appears to be gaining a substantial lead over her half-sister and cousin, both nearly twice her age, in the succession race, observers believe.

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