The Brilliant, Troubled Legacy of Richard Wagner

As the faithful flock to the Bayreuth Festival in his bicentennial year, the spellbinding German composer continues to fascinate, inspire and infuriate

This bronze portrait bust of German composer Richard Wagner, sculptured by artist Arno Breker, resides in Bayreuth, Germany, home of the annual festival honoring his work. (Getty Images)

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The result has been to focus all of Eva’s energy on the thing she cares about most, which is the survival of the Bayreuth Festival as a living and ever-evolving cultural enterprise refreshed by new productions of her great-grandfather’s works. It is an enormous, year-long effort involving hundreds of artists and craftspeople in a remote location, all for a short, five-week series of world-class opera performances.

“It starts when you have a little model,” of the proposed stage set, she said several months before the opening of this summer’s much-anticipated new Ring production by Frank Castorf. “And then the designer comes in, and the director, and now, suddenly, last week, this little model was already on stage for Das Rheingold. It’s like a miracle, like a birth—something absolutely outstanding.”

And then, on opening night, the first extended note of the Ring will emerge from the silence of the Festspielhaus orchestra pit, and the drama will begin anew.

Leonard Bernstein quotes are courtesy of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.


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