A new era dawns at the Bayreuth Festival | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 22.07.2009
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A new era dawns at the Bayreuth Festival

Wagner expert Stephan Moesch says there is a lot of change in store at the Bayreuth Festival in the coming years, includes up-and-coming conductors. But the festival needs to redefine itself, he told DW.

Photo of bust of Wagner laid over image of the Bayreuth venue

Richard Wagner's legacy lives on at the Bayreuth Festival

Stephan Moesch is an expert on Wagner and the editor-in-chief of Opernwelt (World of Opera ), a prominent German trade journal.

Deutsche Welle: The new directors of the Bayreuth Festival - Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner- Pasquier - took up their posts with the intention of modernizing the opera festival and lending it a more contemporary flair. Is there a new artistic concept to go along with it?

Stephan Moesch: There is still a real need to redefine Bayreuth in this day and age. The two half-sisters who are now directing have not had a chance to even present such a concept. They just signed their contracts a few weeks ago and it's still unclear which direction they want to take with the festival.

Is there a theme or a strategy for the next few years? Is it already clear which artists they will want to work with?

Conductor Kirill Petrenko

Kirill Petrenko will conduct at Bayreuth in 2013, the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth

Yes - and that's new for Bayreuth. As far as the conductors are concerned, there's a clear perspective up to 2015. It's a very promising line-up. It is mainly the middle-aged and younger generation of conductors who will be in the orchestra pit: Andris Nelsons, a young Latvian conductor; Thomas Hengelbrock, who has concentrated on the performance practices of the 18th and 19th centuries; Kirill Petrenko, one of the most talented young conductors around, will be conducting "Der Ring des Nibelungen" in anniversary year 2013. (Editors' note: 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner's birth.)

Before that, Christian Thielemann will conduct "Der Fliegende Hollaender" and "Tristan und Isolde." That's a really wonderful selection. As far as the directors are concerned, the old master Hans Neuenfels will be involved in 2010 - a long overdue decision; he should have directed at Bayreuth 20 years ago. And then there will be a focus on the younger generation, but a lot is still up in the air.

The opera for children and the decision to open up the festival to a wider audience on the Internet were two very successful ideas. How have the two festival directors been received up to now - what are your first impressions?

Katharina Wagner has been distinguishing herself as a director; she just staged "Tannhaeuser" on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria - a very successful, unusual scenic rendering of this work.

Katharina Wagner (left) und Eva Wagner-Pasquier

Katharina Wagner (l) and Eva Wagner-Pasquier have taken the reins on the Green Hill

Eva Wagner-Pasquier has emerged as a casting director in Aix-en-Provence and at the Opera Bastille in Paris. She placed a lot of emphasis on lighter voices there. But that's not necessarily desirable at Bayreuth. We'll see how the two will be able to complement each other.

I would like to see the necessity of the Bayreuth Festival fundamentally redefined again. A new staging each year with the expectation that it's Wagner "at his best" is not enough to take the festival into the future.

How should the festival distinguish itself in the future?

I would like to see Wagner's compositional legacy play a greater role - that his works are not only staged differently, but that they also reflect the context in which Wagner lived and worked and are confronted with new ways of listening.

What kind of new things are planned that are not directly connected to the repertoire?

The new directors are now trying to establish an academy in Bayreuth. But that is only an idea right now - to create an academy where the next generation of singers can be trained, where orchestra musicians also teach and the instrumentalists prepare. These are plans which have not yet been realized for financial reasons.

Interview: Gudrun Stegen (als)

Editor: Kate Bowen

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