With the Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, an international figurehead is being put to the test. The federal government, one of the major shareholders, wants to take on the structures on the famous Green Hill. “If you recognize difficulties, you shouldn’t put the solution on the back burner,” said Minister of State for Culture Monika Grütters (CDU) of the German Press Agency in Berlin. “My concern is that there are sensible and effective structures in Bayreuth.”
Like Bavaria and the Society of Friends of Bayreuth, the federal government holds 29 percent of the shares in Bayreuther Festspiele GmbH. The city is there with the remaining 13 percent. In addition to the upcoming renovation work, Berlin financed 2.9 million euros of the almost 27 million euros budget last year. The federal government recently pledged a further 84.7 million euros for the renovation of the festival hall, which cost around 178 million euros.
From Grütters’ point of view, it’s “not just about who has how much say, but above all about how we reach the audience”. The Bayreuth Festival is also largely financed with taxpayers’ money. “You just have to ask: Will the debt of a nationally and internationally significant opera festival be honored? Are the expectations of the audience adequately taken into account? Are the structures suitable so that the highest level of artistic performance can be achieved? In the past there were sometimes frictional losses given, “said Grütters.
Berlin does not question the prominent position of the Wagner family. “At the Bayreuth Festival, the role of the family must and should be properly appreciated,” said Grütters. “The family rightly defends its rights to participate. The question is more whether the current statutes and partnership agreements are still up to date today.”
The festival director is also supported by Grütters. “In the past three years, Katharina Wagner has reorganized the Bayreuth Festival and also created a lot that did not exist before.” The Minister of State for Culture referred to the “Bayreuth Discourse” as a platform for the festival for world premieres, concerts and discussions. “Since taking office, she has been responsible for the very popular and critically acclaimed children’s opera,” said Grütters. By broadcasting the opening of the festival in cinemas in Germany and abroad, it was possible to open the festival to a very large audience outside of Bayreuth. In addition, Katharina Wagner had to deal with her family history.
After the corona-related cancellation in 2020, Grütters Festival also wants to be in the coming year. “The Bayreuth Festival should definitely take place in 2021. We owe it to the audience, we owe it to Bayreuth and the Festival.” However, it is to be feared that distance rules for opera houses will still apply next summer. “That would also lead to considerable shortfalls in income at the Bayreuth Festival. Therefore, only 22 instead of the usual 32 performances are planned for the time being,” said Grütters.