Ring of hatred: Wagner family feud swells again to operatic ...

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Ring of hatred: Wagner family feud swells again to operatic proportions

At Bayreuth, his descendants are still loathing one another. Is it time they gave up control of the festival?

Rupert Christiansen

“The Brits have the Windsors, the Germans have the Wagners,” says Barrie Kosky, director of Berlin’s Komische Oper. “They’re the nearest they get to a royal family – and that’s part of their problem.”

As direct descendants of the composer Richard – the last of whose grandsons died only 10 years ago – there is a mystique around the dynasty that inspires gossip, legend and the kind of relentless press coverage that intimates that each member of the clan nurses murderous hatred for all of their relatives.

The latest chapter in this family saga unfolded this March, just two weeks after the coronavirus pandemic had forced the cancellation of this August’s Bayreuth Festival, the annual opera jamboree founded by Richard Wagner himself in 1876 and controlled by his family ever since. In mid-April, 42-year-old Katharina Wagner, director of the festival since 2012, suddenly vanished from public view. It was announced that she was suffering from a serious “long-term illness” (not coronavirus) and that no date could be specified for her return...

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