Nike Wagner bids in battle to head Bayreuth opera festival

Nike Wagner bids in battle to head Bayreuth opera festival
Mortier (L) and Wagner (R), have bid to run Bayreuth together. Photo: DPA
Belgian opera impresario Gerard Mortier is teaming up with Nike Wagner, great-granddaughter of composer Richard Wagner, in a bid to run the legendary Bayreuth Festival, a report said Monday.

Quoting Nike Wagner, 63, the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said the two had faxed a joint letter of application to the festival’s ruling body, the Stiftungsrat. It meets on September 1 to nominate a successor to 88-year-old Wolfgang Wagner, who has headed Bayreuth for the past 57 years.

The closing date for applications is Friday, one day after the end of the festival and the day before Wolfgang’s 89th birthday. Current favourites to ascend Bayreuth’s throne are his two daughters, Katharina, 30, and her much older half-sister, Eva Wagner-Pasquier, 63. But Mortier and Nike Wagner were also “open” to cooperating with Eva, Nike Wagner told the newspaper. Eva had originally planned to make a joint bid with her cousin Nike to succeed Wolfgang in a bitter internecine feud that has been raging for decades over control of the world’s oldest and most prestigious summer music festival.

But following the unexpected death of Wolfgang’s second wife, Gudrun, last year, a new solution was put forward whereby Eva and Katharina would jointly run the month-long festival. The idea has both the blessing of Wolfgang, who had originally wanted Katharina to run Bayreuth on her own, as well as the approval of the powerful Society of Friends of Bayreuth, in addition to the agreement of a number of prominent members of the Stiftungsrat.

In an recent radio interview, Nike said she had not given up hope of winning the battle. “The ball is now in the court of the Wagner family,” she told DeutschlandRadio Kultur on Thursday, referring to the festival’s statutes according to which the festival should preferably remain in the hands of Wagner’s descendants. “Sometimes, I still believe in miracles,” Nike said.

The idea of a joint application by Eva and Katharina was originally proposed by the Stiftungsrat, even though Eva and Nike had already submitted a joint application. “I would very much have liked to have done it with Eva,” Nike said.

Mortier, 64, made a name for himself as head of the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels before taking over as head of the renowned Salzburg Festival in Austria in the 1990s. He also founded the ambitious Ruhrtriennale music and theatre festival in western Germany, before being appointed head of the Opera de Paris. Next year Mortier will step down from his position in Paris to take up a new position of general director of the New York City Opera.