Bayreuth celebrates Wagner's 200th birthday

BAYREUTH, Germany- Braving blustery showers and unseasonally chilly temperatures, hundreds of people turned out in Bayreuth Wednesday to celebrate the 200th birthday of German composer Richard Wagner.
Bavaria's political elite, headed by state premier Horst Seehofer, were among the invited guests for a rare concert in the legendary Festspielhaus theatre, which was built according to Wagner's own demands atop Bayreuth's fabled Green Hill.

Normally open only for a few weeks each year during the world-famous summer festival dedicated exclusively to Wagner's works, the Festspielhaus was transformed into a concert hall for a performance of excerpts from some of his best known operas.
German maestro Christian Thielemann was scheduled to conduct the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra in a performance of Act 1 of "The Valkyrie", the Prelude and "Liebestod" from "Tristan and Isolde", Siegfried's Rhine Journey and Funeral March from "Twilight of the Gods" and the overture to "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg".
State premier Seehofer opened the evening with a short speech beforehand.
The Festspielhaus with its incomparable acoustics is only rarely used as a concert venue.
The last time one was played there was in 2010 in honour of Wolfgang Wagner, the composer's grandson, who ran the festival for nearly 60 years until his death that year.
Before that, a concert of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony -- the only work not by Richard Wagner to be performed there -- was played in 2001 to mark the 125th anniversary of the festival itself.
Wagner was born in Leipzig on May 22, 1813 and died in Venice on February 13, 1883.
The favourite composer of Adolf Hitler, Wagner still cuts a controversial figure for his anti-Semitic views.
His great-grandson Gottfried Wagner in a recent interview with AFP denounced him as a narcissist, woman-hater and anti-Semite.
Although the bicentenary celebrations have been planned long in advance, the festival management and municipal authorities of Bayreuth have come under fire because the Richard Wagner Museum housed in the composer's former home Wahnfried is closed for renovation.
Scaffolding also surrounds the crumbling facade of the Festspielhaus itself.

Thursday, May 23rd 2013

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