Bayreuth tells Wagner Associations: No more ticket allocation, go buy them like everyone else.

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 1 January 2012 | 12:18:00 am

The Wagner Sisters:
"Tickets? We have very goods seats thanks.
I wasn't going to report this but wait for developments following the response of Bayreuth to a recent letter from the International Association of Wagner Societies. However, it has been pointed out to me, that  Interrmezzo  and prior to that The Wagner Blog, have already covered this in part. I have also had one or two emails about what I might know. With that in mind I thought I might let you know what a little bird or two (of the forest variety) has informed me in the vague hope of attempting to clarify. A note of caution however, following Groucho Marx's maxim about never being a member of a club that would accept me as a member, I would like to point that I am not a member of any Wagner Society. Equally, I have no vested interest in acquiring any more tickets to Bayreuth - or at least not till they stop all the silliness with the mice and the biogas.

As reported here back in June, a recent report by the the Bundesrechnungshof, the federal audit office, was highly critical of the manner in which Bayreuth distributes its tickets. It pointed out that the festival - which receives $7 million of state funding - makes only 40% of tickets available directly to the public and worse only 16% of tickets to any premiere is available . The other 60 percent involves quotas given to specific organisations: Society of Friends of Bayreuth, Travel Agents, Federation of German Trades Unions, etc (click here for more details). The report went on to point out that the festival must introduce both greater transparency of its allocation procedures and also greater distribution of the tickets to the general public.


As I have already reported here, the German workers union DGB, has only recently been informed that its annual allocation of tickets has been withdrawn. Now in a further turn of events, the international Association of Wagner Associations received a letter from Bayreuth, signed by Eva Wagner-Pasquier and Katharina Wagner and dated 14/12/11, informing them of the outcome of a meeting of the shareholders of the festival held on the 18/10/11. In this letter they state that that ticket allocations for both Wagner societies and, in a strangely out of place addition, travel agents has been withdrawn. They point out the recent report from the Bundesrechnungshof and the need for greater transparency in the allocation process. They go onto say that no further "order forms" will be sent to societies and that any applications made via the internet will remain unprocessed. They do however conclude,perhaps less than helpfully, by saying that members of the societies can continue make applications for tickets like everyone else.

Needless to say, the International Association of Wagner Societies has already responded and in a letter dated 21 December they show their surprise at the decision. They have pointed out the long history between themselves and the Festival since their foundation in 1872; the involvement of the associations in the building of Bayreuth and their continued, and what one must say is significant and unpaid, voluntary, support of the festival, etc by its 22, 000 members, They also point out that the removal of ticket allocation was first brought to their attention recently without any communication from Bayreuth- and prior to the Bayreuth letter - and only when individual members were chasing-up applications to the box office! They conclude by recognising that they have no right to ticket allocation but hope the Festival will reconsider their decision at the next Shareholders meeting.

I have to say that the decision and the way it has been handled, by Bayreuth has surprised even me. A quick search through just this blog will supply an idea of the sort of self funded, voluntary, promotional work the societies do in the name of promoting Wagner's work. To this we must add the national and international singing competitions and the large amount of sponsorship and promotion provided to up and coming Wagner performers - many of whom would have struggled to develop their careers without such support.

It is understandable that Bayreuth may have wanted to stop the profiteering of the travel agents but stopping allocation of full price tickets to societies that support them - and initially not even telling them they had ceased their allocation - seems a to hasty, and ill thought-out response to the criticisms of the Bundesrechnungshof Perhaps, if increasing tickets for public consumption is an issue, then reducing ticket allocations for societies would be acceptable but removing allocation seems an extreme and perhaps foolish move.

More as things develop.