Bayreuth Update Report: Wagner Society of S. California

Posted on 10, Jun, 2015 in Uncategorized

Hello fellow Wagnerians!

I wanted to give you an update on Bayreuth 2013. First of all, this was truly a very positive Bayreuth experience for everyone I spoke with. It was definitely one of the most cohesive times I have felt yet. From the ticket allocation issue, to the lectures and dinners, it was wonderful to experience all Wagner Societies finding a rekindled connection.

The Rheingold Dinner

I honestly did not know what to expect. Back in the ticket allocation days, we had an attendance of approximately 85 to 110 guests at the Festival Restaurant with guest appearances by cast members sharing the experience at the Festival.  With the challenges of 2012, last year we didn’t have a dinner; we just didn’t know who was going to be there. This year it was really no different. Listening to Wagner Societies around the world, there was virtually no really quantity of tickets available. But last year, listening to some of the Bayreuth officials and some of the Wagner Society leadership, we decided to go forward with the Rheingold dinner and began planning with the Freunde as a joint effort to revitalize what we had in the past. By the time Rheingold was about to start, people were still signing up for the dinner. We had a total of 75 in attendance, which was a real miracle! The Freunde provided for about 15% of that attendance; we are most grateful! The rest were all Wagner Societies. Can you imagine? Despite the negatives of the previous year, we still gathered and had a wonderful dinner with a few of the cast members. I also believe one of the reasons for the great attendance is because once again, the Freunde made sure Wagner Societies were taken care of. Thank you Ina Besser-Eichler (the miracle worker)! 

As for next year, before the evening was over, Ina, Peter Martin of the Festival Restaurant and I, already started making plans, so as it stands, there will be a Rheingold Dinner for Wagner Societiesand the Freunde during the last cycle in 2014 as in years gone by. Because there has been a change in the opera schedule (no more breaks during the Ring), the singers are not as readily available so they encouraged me to invite them sooner so that they will be able to arrange their schedules accordingly.  I will honor their request and also ask that our fellow Wagner Societies to help by letting their members know as soon as possible regarding the availability of the dinner, so I can make arrangements.

Ticket Allocations

By now, you have probably read the email written by Frances Henry of the Toronto Society; there is some optimism about the future. As I met with key people in Bayreuth, the information was consistent. Frances and I also had a lunch and compared notes (it was good fun). In short, the board of the Festival will be reconsidering ticket allocations to the Wagner Societies for vote in November. As some of you may know, a key reason we currently do not have ticket allocations is because of the hold out of the Federal Government for political reasons. Being that there are elections this month, the opinion of the government seat may change. While the settling of the elections will not be fully installed until January, it may make a difference. However, being that any new personnel may not be installed until then, it may have to be put up for vote again late in 2014, so we may not see a change until 2015. Also, one of the Bayreuth officials I spoke with mentioned to me about how delegating the ticket allocations may change and go through an intermediary rather than straight from the ticket office. There is only a slim chance of this occurring, but it is being discussed. Though one of the potential delegations was mentioned, I will hold that in confidence because at this point it is only a possibility and then is moot until allocations are reinstated.

Other Bayreuth Events

The John Muller English lectures were surprisingly successful. John and I spoke several times and were very encouraged that people were still quite interested. There were two other lectures as well, both in German. One was by Stefan Mickisch, who has been doing this for years. We spoke briefly, and talked about a special concert he would like to do next year which would include Wagner Societies (I will keep you posted on this). There was also a German lecture on the Castorf production that was only in German. However, through some spur of the moment conversation, David Cline, of the Upper-Midwest Society, organized an English speaking lecture (Deconstructing the Castorf Ring) on the same topic with a wonderful new friend, Alexander Alendeger from Berlin, who proved to be very informed and lots of fun. David and Alexander are talking about officially providing this lecture next year as well. I met with Eva Wagner-Pasquier again this year and she was her usual gracious self. We met in her office and she was quite optimistic about what was happening at the Festival; her biggest concern was the 30 million euro refurbish of the opera house. While they started work, monies that were promised from some sources are taking a long time to arrive. They foresee the refurbish taking approximate 10 years. Currently the opera house has these canvas-like façades on the outside hiding the work. Considering cold snowy winters and keeping the festival open during the summer, they will only be able to work a few months out of the year, which is the reason for the length of time to complete the project. If you are interested in seeing what this looks like, I have a brief showing of the façades at the beginning of our Bayreuth dinner video on our website:


The Bayreuth Festival is changing…some feel for better, others for worse; but either way, it’s just change.  Martin Snell told me as we were talking over dinner that regardless of productions, tickets and schedules, Wagner and his music have proven to be indestructible; I can’t help but to agree. It is only a matter of time that tickets will be allocated to some measure and “the Wagner vision” of the Festival will continue. It may be a little different, but then again, it’s only change. 

John Mastrogiovanni, D.Min.

WSSC, Chairman

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