Katharina Wagner ties her future at the Bayreuth Festival to the demand for reforms. “In my view, a change in certain structures is actually unavoidable. It also depends to a large extent on whether and how I can imagine working as festival director for more years,” said the festival director and great-granddaughter of the composer Richard Wagner.
“Certain things simply have to be professionalized,” emphasized Wagner.
When asked what these are from her point of view, she did not want to say. “First of all, this should be discussed within the GmbH and not yet publicly.” In her view, “above all, structures in the GmbH” need to change. Wagner’s contract runs until 2025.
As every year, the Bayreuth Festival begins on July 25th, this time with a new production of “Tristan und Isolde”. However, the start of the festival was overshadowed by violent allegations of sexism. In the “Nordbayerisches Kurier” women reported that they were sexually harassed on the Green Hill or had to listen to sexual innuendos.
Festival boss Wagner confirmed that she herself was affected: “Sexual innuendos and sometimes assaults in a way, yes,” she said. “But I knew how to defend myself.” The festival asked those affected to contact the management. Wagner assured consequences, as she also demanded on Friday from Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens).
In addition, corona-related failures and changes in line-up had also caused unrest on the conductor’s podium. The opening premiere with “Tristan und Isolde” is now conducted by Markus Poschner instead of Cornelius Meister, who in turn conducts the “Ring” – instead of Pietari Inkinen, who had to cancel due to a long-term Covid illness.
Bayreuth’s structures are complicated: The Federal Republic of Germany, the Free State of Bavaria and the friends’ association of Bayreuth each hold 29 percent of the festival’s shareholders. The fourth and smallest shareholder is the city of Bayreuth with 13 percent. Festival Director Katharina Wagner and Managing Director Ulrich Jagels are the managing directors of the Festspiel-GmbH.
The Richard Wagner Foundation, which owns the festival hall and elects the festival director, also plays an important role. The Board of Trustees is the most important body. The federal government and the Free State of Bavaria each have five votes, the Wagner family four, the city of Bayreuth three, the patrons of the “Friends of Bayreuth”, the district of Upper Franconia and the Bavarian State Foundation two votes each and the Upper Franconia Foundation one.