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Joachim Sauer and Angela Merkel: The former chancellor is considered a lover of Richard Wagner's music


Ronald Wittek / EPO

This year's Bayreuth Festival opened with many celebrities. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband Joachim Sauer are almost part of the inventory on the so-called Green Hill, and Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also walked the red carpet.

Also present at the opening were Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens), actress Margarita Broich, known as the "Tatort" commissioner, and numerous other representatives from politics, society and business. A new version of Wagner's »Parsifal«, staged by the US director and playwright Jay Scheib, was performed at the beginning.

Angela Merkel was in a good mood. In a green-turquoise shimmering two-part ensemble, the ex-chancellor attended the premiere with her husband. With kisses on the cheek, she greeted her long-time political companion von der Leyen. Shortly before Merkel's arrival, musicians from the Festival Orchestra had traditionally played a few bars of the opening work from the balcony – in Bayreuth the sign that the performance is about to begin. Merkel is considered a great fan of Richard Wagner's music and a regular guest at the festival.

Until the end of August, numerous further performances of these and other operas by the composer such as "Tristan und Isolde" and "The Flying Dutchman" will follow in Bayreuth. The annual festival in Bayreuth was initiated by the composer himself, who also created his own venue for his work there, the Festspielhaus. They have been held since 1876.

Debate over higher ticket prices

The Bayreuth Richard Wagner Festival is considered the most famous opera festival in Germany. Most recently, Festival Director Katharina Wagner and Managing Director Ulrich Jagels had publicly disagreed about distribution. The fact that the festival is not sold out this year – unlike in decades before – was also blamed by Wagner on mistakes in distribution and higher ticket prices, which Jagels defended as necessary.

In 2022, the festival was overshadowed by accusations of sexism. At least legally, these have no consequences: The public prosecutor's office discontinued the proceedings at the beginning of the year.