Catherine the soft-spinner

Catherine the soft-spinner

My prelude to the wagner year: what I hadn't already worked out in my head! But if the current news situation demands it, everything else has to take a back seat. But that is not a bad thing. It's not every day that I can, may or have to react to a rough occasion – especially not an exclusive interview with katharina wagner.

In the new year's eve edition of the nurnberger zeitung, the wagner great-granddaughter with the highest profile in the world was the only one who was allowed to spread out on two printed pages, along with nine other celebrities. According to its own figures, the NZ has a circulation of not even 30,000 copies, so it can by no means compete with the journalistic weight of the much coarser daily newspaper from the same publishing house. However, the bayreuth expert was not exactly enthusiastic about the awarding of the eon culture prize to the festival directors only recently.

Perhaps, the unsuspecting reader may think, katharina wagner simply found herself appropriately well-placed with her NZ double-page spread alongside the one-sidedly presented other spokespeople such as harald gloockler, maja prinzessin von hohenzollern, daniela schad and theo waigel. But of course this is only half the truth. Because she could rely on at least one news agency to jump on it and make sure it was distributed nationwide.

"Katharina wagner is already planning until 2020" many newspapers promptly headlined the short version that the deutsche presse agency fed into their editorial systems on new year's day. After all, this was actually a central content of the interview – which the agencies by no means always manage to do. But this is not new. At the last festival press conference, the festival director said a sentence in passing that apparently only stuck in my ears: "we have been asked to plan until 2020."

How please? By 2020 – and by whom? It is important to know that the current and first term of office of katharina wagner and her half-sister eva-wagner-pasquier as intendants and. Managing directors of bayreuther festspiele gmbh will run until 2015 – that's since 1. September 2008, the project took seven years to complete, which is unusually long by bavarian standards. Even munich state opera director nikolaus bachler was only extended by five years the second time around.

In any case, only one person could have issued this demand: toni schmid, ministerial director from the bavarian ministry of science and the arts, who, as chairman of the board of directors of the richard wagner foundation, is authorized to issue directives to the festival directors. Presumably not always to the delight of the two ladies. But he is and remains their most important ally in terms of securing power and extending contracts.

What could be seen most recently in the already mentioned and highly embarrassing eon award ceremony, which schmid had personally and antichambratingly invited – past the status of the "independent jury" and to the recommendations of the district of upper franconia, which is entitled to make proposals, and also to the public perception, which for years has been continuously confronted with non-prize-worthy bankruptcies, misfortunes and mishaps for which the two festival directors are responsible.

The fact that the festival – unlike repertory theaters, which inherently need more new productions – has to plan very far in advance is a mar, which was already served up again and again in the final phase of wolfgang wagner's era. At the time, this was probably also due to the wagner-enkel's frail health and advanced age. But in essence, it was about securing katharina's future at the festspiele for the long term. When the record-breaking festival director finally stepped down in 2008, it was already contractually agreed that his youngest daughter would perform "tristan und isolde" in bayreuth in 2015 was staged – seven years in advance. Out of sheer fear that they would otherwise no longer be available?

I was almost willing to bet that this would happen again – for example with regard to the next bayreuth "ring" 2020. Betting that katharina wagner will direct it? Finally, she has to advance her career, which after her youngest cancellation at the colon "ring was allowed to break into buenos aires. Which intendant will now gladly take the risk of hiring a director who is always good for headlines, but who does not take agreements and contracts that have been made very seriously??

What all this has to do with the new year's eve interview? A LOT. Because that's where the 34-year-old is trying to put right the negative impressions she has made recently. In other words: not a single word about the sudamerica adventure, which is nonsensical from the start anyway, instead rambling and soft-spoken explanations about, for example, what a practical and cost-conscious director she is. That sounds strange, considering how much money they spent on their bayreuth "meistersinger" alone-staging from 2007 in the preview video. It's even funnier when she suddenly realizes that her great-grandfather didn't even make it to his early work "rienzi" in 2020 was cut short. Didn't she just three months ago in the preview video burn the colon "ring" shortened to the half? Described as a convincing project?

A good third of the talk revolves around forgetting her revisions from the spiegel interview in the summer that caused a stir, especially in bayreuth. The word "province she only takes it as a quotation in her mouth and describes her own feeling of home in concrete terms as one that is connected above all with her two dogs. Which in turn does not sound particularly flattering for bayreuth. But she likes nurnberg and the opera house there so much that you can't help wondering whether toni schmid, who is also responsible for the state theater in nurnberg, might have suggested to state director peter theiler that he hire the no-longer-so-easily-placed bayreuth director as a guest director.

Okay. Exclusive interviews are a good way of throwing smoke candles and throwing sand in the eyes of the reader, if the person you're talking to is willing to cooperate. When asked about her own contract extension, katharina wagner says: "to be honest, i really don't think that far ahead." But the very next sentence says: "of course we're thinking about 2015 and 2016, we're thinking up to 2020. The contracts are already largely signed and sealed, because they have to sign the people so early. You won't get mr thielemann if you ask him now for 2014, that's much too late."

Sounds plausible in this particular case, but it is not. For christian thielemann, as is well known, wagner and bayreuth are so much a matter of the heart that he is also under contract as artistic advisor to the festival management. It has also been clear for a long time that from 2015 he will perform "tristan" will conduct. So everything is definitely too late for 2014, firstly because there is no new production and secondly because thielemann does not step in as a prominent savior in an emergency every time a festival conductor throws in the towel or is thrown out.

It's just good that for katharina wagner, the wagner year is the "first, absolute priority" has. There I could – for once – agree with her. At least almost. However, the daily birth and commemoration days are not to be sneezed at either: on 1. January 115 years ago viktor ullmann was born, on 2. January 125 years ago tito schipa heard his voice for the first time, on the same day 98 years ago karl goldmark died, not to forget the "hollanders"-first performance in 1843. And H. K. Gruber turns seventy today.