Fresh blood at helm and on stage as Bayreuth Festival opens

25th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Germany's legendary Bayreuth Festival got under way Sunday with a new production of Richard Wagner's romantic opera "Lohengrin" featuring a German star tenor in the lead role.

Critics and afficionados of the event will be looking to see what changes the new generation of the family brings as they settle in at the helm following the death in March of the composer's grandson.

Wolfgang Wagner, who ran the festival for 57 years, died at the age of 90, leaving his daughter Katharina, 36, and her half-sister Eva Wagner-Pasquier, 65, to step into the role.

Sunday's opening-night gala would likely be "a little bit emotional, because we'll be missing our father", Katharina told Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

But some critics, who have long bemoaned the dearth of good Wagner singers in the Festspielhaus during the latter years of Wolfgang Wagner's reign, are looking forward to a breath of fresh air at the event.

Eva Wagner-Pasquier, who has worked as casting consultant in New York's Metropolitan Opera and the Aix-en-Provence festival in France, is reputed to have a much better hand with singers.

Last year's festival saw only revivals of earlier productions to allow for a smoother transition at the helm.

This year's "Lohengrin" is not only the first new production under the new joint leadership but brings in new musical talent to the festival.

Festivalgoers are eager to see what German star tenor Jonas Kaufmann will be able to bring to the title role, in what is his Bayreuth debut.

And at the helm of the orchestra will be the talented young Latvian conductor, Andris Nelsons.

The festival, which runs until August 28, will feature a production of Wagner's magnum opus, the sprawling four-opera "Ring" cycle.

Also featured are "Parsifal" in the third revival of a 2008 staging by Norwegian director Stefan Herheim; and "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg" in the fourth revival of Katharina Wagner's production from 2007.

The new management team is already planning new productions of Wagner operas for future festivals.

In 2011, the 100th edition of the Bayreuth Festival, there will be a new production of "Tannhaeuser" conducted by German early music specialist Thomas Hengelbrock.

Katharina Wagner has even said she is planning a project in which DJs will mix Wagner.

© 2010 AFP

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