Changes are afoot at the Bayreuth Festival, the annual Bavarian event devoted exclusively to the operas of Richard Wagner. The 2008 festival concludes today, signaling the end of the long directorship of Wolfgang Wagner, the composer’s grandson. He will turn 89 on Saturday and is reported to be in poor health. His resignation takes effect after the current festival.
Two branches of the Wagner family are competing to succeed Wolfgang Wagner and take control of the festival. Involved are three great-granddaughters of the composer plus a non-family member, Gerard Mortier of the New York City Opera. The New York Times has some of the details.
Like the composer himself, the Wagner family has had a contentious history. John Ardoin, the late music critic of the Dallas Morning News, once joked that someone should stage a Ring cycle in which each character would represent a member of the Wagner family.