Wolfgang Wagner

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Wolfgang Wagner

Wolfgang Wagner (30 August 1919 21 March 2010 [1] ) was a German opera director. He is best known as the director (Festspielleiter) of the Bayreuth Festival, a position he initially assumed alongside his brother Wieland in 1951 until the latter's death in 1966. From then on, he assumed total control until he retired in 2008, although many of the productions which he commissioned were severely criticized in their day. He had been plagued by family conflicts and criticism for many years. He was the son of Siegfried Wagner, the grandson of Richard Wagner, and the great-grandson of Franz Liszt.

Germans citizens or native-born people of Germany; or people of descent to the ethnic and ethnolinguistic group associated with the German language

Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe, who share a common German ancestry, culture and history. German is the shared mother tongue of a substantial majority of ethnic Germans.

Bayreuth Festival music festival

The Bayreuth Festival is a music festival held annually in Bayreuth, Germany, at which performances of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner are presented. Wagner himself conceived and promoted the idea of a special festival to showcase his own works, in particular his monumental cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal.

Wieland Wagner was a German opera director.



His mother, Winifred Wagner (née Williams-Klindworth), was English. He was born at Wahnfried, the Wagner family home in Bayreuth in Bavaria. In addition to his elder brother Wieland (1917–66), he had an elder sister Friedelind Wagner (1918–1991), and a younger sister Verena Wagner (Verena Lafferenz, born 1920).[ citation needed ]

Winifred Marjorie Wagner was the English-born wife of Siegfried Wagner, the son of Richard Wagner, and ran the Bayreuth Festival after her husband's death in 1930 until the end of World War II in 1945. She was a friend and supporter of Adolf Hitler, and she and Hitler maintained a regular correspondence.

Wahnfried Richard Wagners villa in Bayreuth, Germany

Wahnfried was the name given by Richard Wagner to his villa in Bayreuth. The name is a German compound of Wahn and Fried(e).

Bavaria State in Germany

Bavaria, officially the Free State of Bavaria, is a landlocked federal state of Germany, occupying its southeastern corner. With an area of 70,550.19 square kilometres, Bavaria is the largest German state by land area comprising roughly a fifth of the total land area of Germany. With 13 million inhabitants, it is Germany's second-most-populous state after North Rhine-Westphalia. Bavaria's main cities are Munich and Nuremberg.

During the 1920s Winifred Wagner was an admirer, supporter and friend of the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, who became a regular visitor to Bayreuth. Wolfgang Wagner first met Hitler in 1923, when he was four years old, and the Wagner children were encouraged to call him "Uncle Adolf" or "Uncle Wolf" (his nickname). When Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, he showered favours on the Wagner family. Wolfgang was a member of the Hitler Youth but never joined the Nazi Party. He joined the German Army in 1939. During the Polish campaign he was severely wounded in the arm, and he was discharged as medically unfit in June 1940 (Hitler visited him in the hospital). [2]

Nazi Party Fascist political party in Germany (1920-1945)

The National Socialist German Workers' Party, commonly referred to in English as the Nazi Party, was a far-right political party in Germany that was active between 1920 and 1945, that created and supported the ideology of Nazism. Its precursor, the German Workers' Party, existed from 1919 to 1920.

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Hitler Youth Youth organisation of the Nazi Party

The Hitler Youth was the youth organisation of the Nazi Party in Germany. Its origins dated back to 1922 and it received the name Hitler-Jugend, Bund deutscher Arbeiterjugend in July 1926. From 1933 until 1945, it was the sole official youth organisation in Germany and was partially a paramilitary organisation; it was composed of the Hitler Youth proper for male youths aged 14 to 18, the German Youngsters in the Hitler Youth for younger boys aged 10 to 14, and the League of German Girls.

Wagner married twice, to Ellen Drexel (1919–2002) and Gudrun Mack (1944–2007). [3] He has three children: Eva, born 1945, Gottfried, born 1947 and Katharina, born 1978. [4] He was reportedly estranged from his daughter Eva over control of the Bayreuth Festival, [5] while Gottfried, who has long been publicly critical, [6] and was banned from the family villa in 1975, [7] only learned of his father's death from media coverage. [7] According to Gottfried's autobiography Twilight of the Wagners: The Unveiling of a Family's Legacy (1997, English version: 1999), his father told him in the 1950s: "Hitler cured unemployment and restored worldwide respect for the German economy. He freed our people from a moral crisis and united all decent forces. We Wagners have him to thank for the idealistic rescue of the Bayreuth festival." [8]

Eva Wagner-Pasquier German opera manager

Eva Wagner-Pasquier is a German opera manager. She is the daughter of Wolfgang Wagner and Ellen Drexel. On 1 September 2008, Wagner-Pasquier and her half-sister Katharina Wagner were named as joint directors of the Bayreuth Festival which is largely dedicated to the stage works of their great-grandfather Richard Wagner.

Gottfried Wagner German publicist

Gottfried Wagner is a multimedia director and publicist.

Katharina Wagner German opera director

Katharina Wagner is a German opera stage-director and co-director of the Bayreuth Festival. She is the daughter of Wolfgang Wagner, great-granddaughter of Richard Wagner, and great-great granddaughter of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt.

Eva was eventually named as his successor as the director of the Bayreuth Festival in conjunction with his preferred candidate, her half-sister Katharina, after the two women reached an agreement following the death of his second wife who was Katharina's mother. [9]


Wolfgang worked with his older brother Wieland Wagner in 1951 on the resurrection of the Bayreuth Festival following Germany's defeat in the Second World War. Since that time, the festival has run on an annual basis. On Wieland's death in 1966, Wolfgang became the sole director of the festival and, under his directorship, the famous Bayreuth Festspielhaus underwent extensive renovations. He stepped down on 31 August 2008 when the year's festival had finished. [10]

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus opera house

The Bayreuth Festspielhaus or Bayreuth Festival Theatre is an opera house north of Bayreuth, Germany, built by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner and dedicated solely to the performance of his stage works. It is the venue for the annual Bayreuth Festival, for which it was specifically conceived and built. Its official name is Richard-Wagner-Festspielhaus.

Both brothers contributed productions to the Bayreuth Festival, but Wolfgang did not enjoy the same critical reception as Wieland did. Like his brother, Wolfgang favoured modern, minimalist stagings of his grandfather's works in his productions. As director of the festival, Wolfgang commissioned work from many guest producers, including innovative and controversial stagings such as the 1976 production of the Ring Cycle by Patrice Chéreau. However, he confined the stagings at the festival to the last ten operas by his grandfather that make up the Bayreuth canon established under the direction of his grandmother Cosima Wagner.[ citation needed ]

Wolfgang attracted some criticism for what was seen as his autocratic sway over the Festival, [5] much of which comes from within the Wagner family itself. Wieland's daughters, Daphne and Nike Wagner, have accused their uncle of ill-treating their branch of the family, saying that he drove them and their mother out of the family home following their father's death and destroyed the scenery, models and correspondence with artists relating to their father's work. Wagner writer Barry Millington notes two rather inconsistent threads of criticism about Wolfgang's role in managing the presentation of the family's connection with the Nazis. Daphne accuses him of blackening her father's name by releasing information on Wieland's connection with the Bayreuth satellite of the Flossenbürg concentration camp, while Wolfgang's own son, Gottfried, accuses him of having tried to suppress all information about the Wagner grandchildren's connection with the Nazis. [11]

Nonetheless, he helped make the Bayreuth one of the most popular destinations in the world of opera. There was a ten-year waiting list for tickets. [12] In 1994, he invited Werner Herzog (who had staged Lohengrin at Bayreuth in 1987) to make a documentary about the festival, which was released under the title Die Verwandlung der Welt in Musik (The Transformation of the World into Music).[ citation needed ]

See also


  1. "Former Bayreuth director Wolfgang Wagner dies aged 90". BBC News. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 22 March 2010.
  2. Jonathan Carr (2007), The Wagner Clan, Faber, ISBN   0871139758
  3. Schock in Bayreuth – Gudrun Wagner tot. Spiegel.de (28 November 2007). Retrieved on 2012-09-02.
  4. Joseph M. Erbacher's Wagner Family Tree Archived 4 January 2003 at the Wayback Machine . Home.c2i.net. Retrieved on 2 September 2012.
  5. 1 2 Tom Service (20 July 2007). "Wagner's guardian", BBC News.
  6. "Wagner descendant slams composer", The Local, 19 May 2013
  7. 1 2 Kate Connolly "'Lost son' Gottfried Wagner reopens the family feud over Bayreuth", The Observer, 4 April 2010
  8. cited by Martin Kettle "The twilight of the Wagners", The Guardian, 8 June 2000
  9. "Two Great-Granddaughters of R. Wagner named to manage Bayreuth". New York Times (2 September 2008). Retrieved on 2012-09-02.
  10. Catherine Hickley (29 April 2008). Bayreuth Festival Chief Wolfgang Wagner Steps Down (Update1). Bloomberg.com
  11. Barry Millington "Wagner wars – the truth behind the long-running family saga Archived 2013-04-09 at WebCite ", Evening Standard, 09.09.09
  12. "Bayreuth Festival Goes for Youth in 2007". www.auswaertiges-amt.de. 21 February 2007. Archived from the original on 26 September 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2007.

Further reading

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