The following article appeared on The Guardian:
It’s that time of year again: the balmy nights of late spring are the augurs of the annual ritual of blood-letting in northern Bavaria, when the remaining Wagners do their best to tear each other apart in public on the eve of the Bayreuth Festival.
This week’s fun on the Green Hill concerns the following: it was announced over a year ago that Eva Wagner-Pasquier would be leaving her co-managerial duties with her half-sister Katharina at the end of this season. But that’s not enough, it seems. Malevolent forces somewhere within the poisonous, Nibelheimisch politics of Wagner’s Bayreuth mean, apparently, that Eva isn’t even allowed to be seen anywhere in the environs of the festival theatre, otherwise their star conductor Christian Thielemann will apparently humph off in a massive schtropp and not conduct Tristan und Isolde in the production that Katharina is directing to open the festival on 25 July.
Allegedly, that is: Thielemann denies it, as do key partners in the festival organization, but Wagner-Pasquier’s lawyer seems to confirm the rumours. And, in a personal statement, Daniel Barenboim has called the treatment she is being subjected to as “inhumane.” “I thought you couldn’t take away people’s freedom of movement – unless they were criminals,” he added.
And all of this comes on top of Kirill Petrenko, the Ring’s conductor and the sole unsullied hero of Bayreuth’s current production of the tetralogy, voicing his disapproval at the late, late replacement of his Siegfried, Lance Ryan, with Stefan Vinke describing the treatment of Ryan – and Wagner-Pasquier – as “unprofessional and wholly undignified”, and saying that only his responsibility to and respect for his colleagues have stopped him from cancelling altogether.
So, are Bayreuth and the Wagner clan in crisis? Far from it: Bayreuth just wouldn’t be Bayreuth without its annual curtain-raiser of gossip and scandal. Let’s instead be grateful to everyone at the Green Hill for the drama that makes it an on- and offstage saga that just keep on giving, year after year.