Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Controversy in Bayreuth, 2015 Edition

Unlike the usual: up until June this year, the current Bayreuth Festival would've seemed to be quite a 'peaceful' festival season. Many people waited eagerly for the new Tristan production from Katharina Wagner, which many consider as a determining production for the future of this renowned festival. Some, who were still 'traumatized' by her Meistersinger production (pictured above), were also ready to throw the rotten tomatoes to the stage if the worst case scenario would've applied.
But the real storm suddenly came and fans suddenly recognized, here comes the Bayreuth we know... It's a fact: behind the calm and peaceful surrounding of the Festspielhaus, the Bayreuth Festival is not your usual opera house and untiringly serves the public and fans huge controversy year after year. Here's the chronology this year:

In the first week of June the whole cast for all current productions were announced. This followed the Tristan cast announcement already made in February. Never before the public had to wait so long for the announcement. One month before the opening, unbeliveable.
A few days later, many print medias, started by a report on Süddeutsche Zeitung, suddenly wrote about (one half of the festival intendant alongside Katharina W.) Eva Wagner-Pasquier's ban from the Green Hill. The reason for the ban is said to be Christian Thielemann, who experienced some artistic conflict with the soon-departing festival intendant. This conflict became public through the statements of Peter Raue, Eva Wagner's lawyer. No official response from the festival. 
During the following week, Daniel Barenboim, who reigned in Bayreuth throughout the 80's and 90's, and Kirill Petrenko, the conductor of the current Ring production, criticized this ban. Petrenko also criticized the replacement of Lance Ryan with tenor Stefan Vinke on the role of Siegfried. Both Ryan & Wagner-Pasquier are according to Petrenko vital to his successful interpretation of the Ring during the past two summers.  

The big day: On the 22nd of June the Berliner Philharmoniker announced Kirill Petrenko as their upcoming principal conductor. Thielemann, an old friend of the orchestra and Karajan's assistant during 80's, was actually a main candidate for this position, alongside Andris Nelsons and Mariss Jansons. Many speculated Thielemann's discontent with this decision. Consider this: throughout the years Thielemann has conducted the orchestra for so many times & involved in a lot of projects with the Berliners. Thielemann's appointment as the principal conductor of Staatskapelle Dresden and artistic director of Easter Festival Salzburg (after Berliner Philharmoniker's departure to Baden-Baden) may have worsened their relationship in the last few  years. But Thielemann still goes to Berlin every January to conduct two concert series with them , also in this upcoming season. Petrenko has only conducted the orchestra for two times. 
Another bang right before the month ended: Anja Kampe, the supposed new Isolde in this new production conducted by Thielemann, officially resigned from the production. Evelyn Herlitzius jumped into the boat replacing her. Due to Kampe's unconfirmed status as Petrenko's companion (which causes media confusion for quite some time now), many fans wonder if this decision had something to do with Petrenko's appointment to Berlin or if there is actually a "beef" between Petrenko and Thielemann. Kampe still sings the role of Sieglinde for the last time in this year's Ring and no official reason for her resignation was mentioned on the festival's official site.

On July the 2nd, the Bayreuth Festival announced Thielemann as its musical director - a position never before existed. This may allow Thielemann to be more involved in the whole decision making & artistic process on the Green Hill. Further information is to be given during the press conference at festival's opening. An act of encouragement for Thielemann? 
A week before the premiere of Tristan, Katharina Wagner and Christian Thielemann gave a lot of interview to the media. While Ms. Wagner only handled the 'typical' questions around her works and interpretation of this new Tristan production, Thielemann on the other hand was asked an array of questions, ranging from the current controversy to his new position as the musical director. The complete interview by BR Klassik here.
Giving a rather neutral answer regarding his opinion about Petrenko's appointment to Berlin, Thielemann showed no excitement and expressed no congratulatory statements to his fellow conductor. Once again he expressed his content with his current position in Dresden, Salzburg and Bayreuth. According to him, there was also no conflict with Eva Wagner-Pasquier or Anja Kampe, as many have reported during the past 2 months. When asked about Petrenko's critic towards Eva Wagner's ban during the rehearsal, Thielemann told the BR-Klassik reporter to ask the man himself. There was also no further comments about Peter Raue's statement.

Now everything smells quite fishy. Is there actually a cat fight between Petrenko & Thielemann behind the red curtain? Was Eva Wagner-Pasquier really banned from the Festspielhaus during the her last sommer as intendant? Why my blog suddenly turned into a cheap gossip site? Anyway... herzlich willkommen zur Bayreuther Festspiele 2015!

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