Why the Wagners must leave Bayreuth.

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 6 August 2012 | 3:18:00 am

"Oh, look. The locals are greeting us with burning torches"
The following is printed in  the comment section of  yesterdays Guardian - written by Guy Dammann, While it is unusual for me to comment on an article repeated here (the rest can be read by following the link below) I felt that apart from correcting a few glaring inaccuracies,  it was  worth while looking at his thesis - if briefly.

But first, to at least two of those inaccuracies:  Yes while Wagner was certainly antisemitic, he actually called for the full integration of the Jews into German society - to the extent that they would have lost any "Jewishness". Indeed, this is part of his antisemitism. Equally he should have noted that that Yevgeny Nitkin denies that his tattoo is a swastika - it was after all reported in the Guardian just after I reported here. 

But these are simply minor journalistic mistakes - and not uncommon. What perplexes  me most is his argument as to why the Wagner's must leave the  management of the Festival to none Wagners: in essence - at last I think that is the argument being made - he believes  that their presence somehow taints the festival with Winifred, et als very close association and support of the Nazis and their  fascist, racist,  genocidal and eugenic  philosophies. This can only be erased once and for all by the removal of the Wagner's themselves. Now, assuming that I have interpreted Guys argument correctly - and I believe I have -  I find his thesis with very little fact. Does he really believe this to be the case? Where is his evidence?

While it is true there have been calls for the present Wagner family members to step down (or at least there are concerns about their ability to manage the festival) this has not been due to any of the reasons he suggests but instead is concerned with artistic and general management decisions. It is certain, that the present management has bundled certain general, and high profile,  management responsibilities - the recent manner in which the removal of Wagner Societies ticket allocation was handled (or miss-handled some might argue) is a very obvious example, and as a recent meeting of  Der RWVI would suggest an ongoing one. Equally, even within the confines of,  German regietheatre, some productions commissioned by the present administration have been of dubious artistic merit at best. And the hiring of Frank Castorf as director  of the 2013 Ring Cycle - a director with at best what may be described as a weak and "controversial" history with Wagner's works and considered by even some of his former supporters as a "spent force" - does not add much confidence among what seems a growing, and vocal,  number of critics. But none of this has anything to do with former family members ties with Hitler.

There maybe legitimate reasons for looking at the end of the Wagner's "reign" at Bayreuth - as has been suggested for example by Nike Wagner (see here) -  and for those unaware, a Wagner with a proven artistic record.  But not for the reasons argued by Guy. A change in management? Perhaps, although it should be noted that it was under Wieland Wagner (many of whose productions are now, rightly considered works of genius) that booing was first heard at Bayreuth - and the first whispers of an end to Wagner family "rule" of Bayreuth were muttered. Perhaps the times are still not right for the present artistic climate at Bayreuth. But if 2015 should see a call for the end of the present Wagner families artistic management this should not exclude election of other family members with the correct credentials and experience - oddly enough Nike Wagner being a perfect example.

Guy may or may or may not  be right about the possibility of management change - but I would argue not for the reasons that he suggests.

To reclaim Wagner, his family must leave the Bayreuth festival

The family have taken positive steps towards dealing with Wagner's fascist associations, but they should go further
.

 Guy Dammann

After a life spent chasing fame and other people's fortunes all over Europe, as well as fleeing from creditors and displeased governments, Richard Wagner chose a quiet corner of northern Bavaria in which to spend his autumn years. The house he built there he called Wahnfried, which translates as "peace from madness". Few houses have been worse named. Family feud has followed spat has followed controversy repeatedly for close on a century and a half.

The latest spat is more interesting than most and, though unlikely, could in principle lead to some of the family's hereditary madness finding rest at last. Katharina Wagner, the composer's great-granddaughter, who now runs the Bayreuth festival together with her half-sister Eva Wagner-Pasquier, has announced that the family must end its long and increasingly deafening silence over its historical associations with the Nazi party. Hitler's idolisation of Wagner is, of course, well documented. But the full extent of the composer's descendents' idolisation of Hitler is a somewhat murkier domain, largely because of the family's refusal to open the archives. In the interests of inaugurating a long overdue process of reckoning, Katharina and Eva have opened their share of the family's papers to public scrutiny. More significantly, given that the most sensitive documents all remain locked up and closely guarded by their cousin Amélie Hohmann, the pair are demanding that other branches of the family follow suit, threatening court action if necessary.

As Yevgeny Nitkin's recent withdrawal from the new production of Der Fliegender Holländer (which opened the festival last week) confirmed, his hand most likely forced by Katharina after historic footage revealed the singer sporting a swastika tattoo on his chest (he was in a Russian heavy metal band, which is an excuse, of sorts), the festival is still plagued by its guilty history. This year, though, perhaps as a precursor to her latest demands, Katharina Wagner has welcomed a travelling exhibition to this year's festival commemorating many of the Jewish musicians expelled from the Bayreuth rosters after the composer's daughter-in-law Winifred (an Englishwoman, by the way) moved to align the festival as closely as possible with the politics of her beloved "Uncle Wolf" (the name for Hitler used by her children, among them Wolfgang Wagner who ran the festival from 1951 until his death in 2008). Entitled "Silenced Voices", the exhibition will now remain on permanent display in the opera house foyer.

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