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The Wagner Festspielhaus in BayreuthImage: AP

Hoax or Wagner Secret

DW staff (ktz)
September 1, 2008

Was a last-minute application from a man claiming to be the illegitimate son of Wieland Wagner a hoax or a sincere bid to take over the direction of the Bayreuth Festival?


On Monday, the board members of the Bayreuth Festival announced that half sisters Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier would take over the helm of the traditional opera festival, held in honor of their great grandfather.

But a last-minute application to direct the event from a person claiming to be the illegitimate son of Wieland Wagner, who died in 1966, stirred up the much anticipated announcement process. Several of the board members were shocked by the bid.

"It sounded to me like a hoax," said festival board chairman Toni Schmid, commenting on the bizarre application from a person referring to himself as "Richard Bauuer, aged 44."

BdT 01.09.08 Katharina und Eva Wagner übernehmen Leitung der Bayreuther Festspiele
Katharina Wagner, left, and Eva Wagner-Pasquier, rightImage: AP

Other members of the board suggested it might have been a contemporary shock-art "happening" designed to grab media attention from the high-brow opera affair.

Michael Hohl, a board member and mayor of Bayreuth where the festival is staged annually, said the application offered neither evidence of Bauer's opera knowledge nor any evidence of his paternity.

"We got the application today. I found it slightly nasty," he added.

Officials and media following the Wagner family said they had never heard of Richard Bauer. Schmid said that if he was genuine, he didn't go about the application process in the right way.

Keeping it in the family

The applicant said his policy was to hand out tickets for free and raise money with a TV series about the Wagner family's turmoil-filled history. Bauer said he would change his surname to "Wagner" if given the job.

On Monday in an email distributed to board members Bauer threatened to exercise a Wagner descendant right of veto over the appointment of the Wagner sisters and to enforce this by court order.

Nike Wagner Kunstfest Weimar
Nike Wagner is the daughter of Wieland WagnerImage: Christin Losta

The decision to award the opera post jointly to Katharina and Eva and thereby passing over their cousin and rival Nike Wagner and her business partner Gerard Mortier came after the board began deliberating over the successor to Wolfgang Wagner, who stepped down as director at the end of August after 57 years.

The Bayreuth Festival is always run by a Wagner descendant.

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