German artist hits back at Bayreuth Festival

16th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

Controversial German performance artist Jonathan Meese hit back Sunday at his sacking from the world-famous Bayreuth opera festival where he had been hired to direct a new production.

Meese, notorious for the use of swastikas and Hitler salutes in his shows, had been recruited to direct a new production of "Parsifal" for the 2016 edition of the legendary month-long summer festival.

In an interview with the weekly magazine Der Spiegel, Meese, 44, rejected the festival organisers' claim that his planned staging of Richard Wagner's opera was too expensive.

The reason was "a pretext," the self-styled "enfant terrible" of German art told the magazine.

"The Bayreuth Festival is no longer concerned about art, but about self-preservation, power and the battle against its declining relevance," Meese said.

The atmosphere in Bayreuth's fabled Festspielhaus theatre, built to Wagner's own designs, was one of fear and intimidation, he raged.

"It's a culture of giving and taking orders.

They intimidate, they are cynical liars and try to manipulate art and people," Meese said.

"Art has no place in Bayreuth.

Meese didn't fail with Wagner, Bayreuth failed with Meese.

"The organisers announced last week that Meese's contract had been cancelled because the production was not financially viable.

"The available budget would have been substantially overrun.

And this is not acceptable,"said the festival's commercial director Heinz-Dieter Sense.

The Bayreuth Festival, dedicated exclusively to the works of its founder Richard Wagner, is one of the most sought-after tickets in the world of opera and classical music, with waiting lists stretching to 10 years and more.

Since the composer's death in 1883, the festival has been run by Wagner's descendants and is currently in the hands of his great-granddaughters Katharina Wagner, 36, and Eva Wagner-Pasquier, 69.

Their choice of Meese for the new production of Wagner's final stage work was controversial from the start, not only for his notorierty, but also because he has never directed an opera before, although he has designed stage sets.

With only two years to go, the cancellation of Meese's contract will prove a major headache for the festival as a new director must be found who can come up with a full staging concept in a short period of time.

The conductor for the new "Parsifal" is young Latvian star Andris Nelsons.

© 2014 AFP

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