Bayreuth opera festival threatened by strike
After almost 17 hours of wrangling ended without result, the Verdi union warned that unless there was a "much better" pay offer it would not return to the negotiating table.
Berlin -- Germany's Bayreuth opera festival looked set on Tuesday to be hit by its first-ever strike after marathon pay talks between unions representing stage and technical staff and management collapsed.
After almost 17 hours of wrangling ended without result in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Verdi union warned that unless there was a "much better" pay offer it would not return to the negotiating table.
"Any further delay represents a serious threat to the Bayreuth Festival -- and not just to the premiere" on July 25, Verdi official Hans Kraft said in a statement.
Kraft also criticised what he called "delaying tactics" by the management of the annual festival and said that employees were "extremely disappointed."
Bayreuth's management was not immediately available for comment.
"Most of the technicians earn less than around 10 euros (14 dollars) per hour at the moment, which is some 20 percent less than the industry norm," Kraft told AFP.
The annual festival dedicated to the operatic works of Richard Wagner, founded by the composer himself in 1876 and still run by his at times warring descendants, will run from July 25 to August 28.
The core of the festival on the famous "Green Hill" outside the Bavarian city of Bayreuth is usually Wagner's four-part "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle of operas -- a 16-hour work mixing German medieval epic and ancient Norse legend.
These and other Wagner works are performed in an austere, red brick opera house designed by the composer himself, drawing every summer thousands of opera aficionados from all around the world.
Tickets can cost as much as 225 euros (315 dollars) per performance, with waiting lists of up to a decade.
This year's festival will be the first to be headed by Katharina Wagner, 31, and Eva Wagner-Pasquier, 64, jointly appointed last year to take over from their father Wolfgang Wagner, who has run the famous music festival for the past 57 years.
Traditionally, one new production is staged every year. But this year, there will only be re-runs of last year's productions of "Tristan and Isolde," "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg," "Parsifal" and the massive four-part "Ring" cycle during the month-long festival.
The two new festival chiefs, who have initially been given seven-year contracts, have promised to inject new life into the festival and win over new and younger audiences with the introduction of free public-viewings, Internet broadcasts and special stagings for children.
Katharina Wagner has also pledged to investigate her family's links with the Nazis.
Adolf Hitler was a huge fan of the anti-Semitic Richard Wagner's works and a close friend of Winifred Wagner, whose children used to call the Nazi dictator "Onkel Wolf".