[Note: This post has been updated (2) as of 8:02 PM Eastern on 17 Jul. See below.]
And seemingly no place to which to turn. Any way one chooses to cut it, the Bayreuther Festspiele is doomed.
Wait. Scratch that. Make that, Wagner's music-dramas at the Festspiele are doomed. The directorship of the Festspiele will, in the coming year, almost certainly go to one of three candidates, all female, and all bearing the Wagner surname: Katharina, 29, who makes her Festspiele debut this year with a new production of Die Meistersinger, and who is the daughter of Wolfgang Wagner, Richard Wagner's 87-year-old grandson and the Festspiele's current director (Festspielleiter); Nike, 62, current director of the Weimar Festival, and Wolfgang's niece, daughter of Wolfgang's brilliant producer brother, the late Wieland; and Eva, also 62, an opera administrator at France's Aix-en-Provence Festival, and daughter of Wolfgang by a previous marriage.
And why do we forecast doom for Wagner's music-dramas at the Festspiele? All three of these candidates are avid, even rabid, advocates of Regietheater, a.k.a., Eurotrash. In addition, one of them, Nike, has even suggested that the Festspielhaus cease being an opera house that mounts Wagner's music-dramas exclusively, and would open the Festspielhaus to the presentation of operas by other composers.
So much for honoring the explicit intention, wishes and instructions of the Festspielhaus's and the Festspiele's founding genius.
One thing only can save both enterprises. And that is the Festspiele's governing body, the Richard Wagner Stiftung Bayreuth, in which governing body resides the final authority to name a new Festspielleiter, and which, if no member of the Wagner family is considered by it to be suitable for the job, can look for a new Festspielleiter elsewhere. As all three Wagner girls are experienced opera producers, it doesn't seem likely the board of the Stiftung will go that route, but, as we've expressed previously in this regard, hope springs eternal.
Update (2:00 PM Eastern on 17 Jul): Blogger Patrick J. Smith of The Penitent Wagnerite comments:
Not to be a jerk, but I think it's safe to say that Wolfgang Wagner is as passionate a supporter of Regietheater as any director of a major opera house.
Given some of the grotesque productions he's permitted on the stage of the Festspielhaus, one surely would think so, wouldn't one. The difference between Wolfgang Wagner and his three potential successors in that regard is that Herr Wagner is a "passionate ... supporter of Regietheater" only to the extent that he imagines it will be good for Festspiele business. His three potential successors, however, are ideologically committed to Regietheater, and that means the end of any restraint on the content and look of that grotesque crap should any one of them become the Festspiele's next Festspielleiter.
And as to Mr. Smith's,
[Katharina Wagner] hasn't had the time to commit herself to something stupid.
She has, and she did — numerous times. And apart from her own Eurotrash productions of her great-grandfather's operas, she, on reliable report, was the one principally responsible for bringing to the Festspiele its most grotesque Eurotrash production yet: the Schlingensief Parsifal.
Update 2 (8:02 PM Eastern on 17 Jul): Patrick J. Smith responds.