The Truth: Low tide in Valhalla

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Written By Maya Cantina

In 2024, there will be a shortage of money on Wagner’s Bayreuth Hill. Visiting rehearsals that make you hungry, even Til Schweiger has to do it.

An opera actor holds a globe in his hand

In 2024, the Rheingold will no longer even shine for the mime-mime Photo: AP

As we approach the Bayreuth Festival Hall, a shrill screech breaks the early summer silence several times. Whatever happens in the beautiful, ancient building, it can’t be anything good. Fortunately, Katharina Wagner is already waiting for us in front of the main entrance.

“Everything is fine,” assures the festival director and great-granddaughter of the monumental composer. She had to be thrown out three times by the police because of her alleged death cries.

“Unfortunately, only the festivals are killed here!” As the 45-year-old says, the support association has drastically reduced the budget for the 2024 season. “With more than a million less, quality compromises are of course inevitable. This direction, please.”

The theater scientist, severely affected by the misery, leads us to the interior, where intensive rehearsals are currently taking place. After crossing the impressive hall, we stop in front of the edge of the orchestra pit. Wagner shines his flashlight into the depths. The beam falls on a girl of about twelve who accompanies the ‘Entry of the Gods into Valhalla’ on the recorder. “Nothing is possible this year,” sobs the festival director, who promises to strengthen the one-woman orchestra with one or two triangles.

Serious loss of the gold treasure

A big surprise awaits us on stage. Barbara Schöneberger, Matthias Schweighöfer and Jan Josef Liefers, dressed in white dresses and with medium-length hair, lament the loss of their gold treasure as ‘Rhine Daughters’. However, the Wagner family’s fortune may not extend that far. “As you can see, we’ve sold a number of roles to tone-deaf but solvent celebrities. “For a few thousand euros they can realize their dream of a very large stage here,” Wagner has to shout at the completely crooked aria.

“Unfortunately, the paying ensemble also includes Til Schweiger, who has internalized his role as the grumpy Hagen von Tronje so much that he even stalks our Siegfried Jan Böhmermann after work. You know, to catch him bathing in dragon’s blood and then jab his vulnerable spot with the spear. Fortunately, Til can be lured away relatively quickly with a six-pack of beer cans. Come.”

The sad game director leads us backstage to the area where the artists’ dressing rooms are usually located. She swings open one of the doors and shows us an example of a young man eating canned ravioli by the light of a naked light bulb. “Because our opera stars are so kind as to dress up at home and come on the bus in full regalia as Wotan or Kriemhild, we can rent out their dressing rooms to students for 2,000 euros,” the housing assistance user throws her hands in the air, whining.

Vegan bratwurst for Söder

To save the festival and the family honor, she has even more consolidation options. The champagne for the guests of honor has been canceled and the vegan bratwurst for Markus Söder costs no less than 45 euros. “The unsuspecting Mr. Söder probably thinks he has a lot of money, but he doesn’t pay out of his own pocket,” Wagner mutters.

The annual classical music festival could take another step towards the black on the evening of the premiere party in July. “When celebrities return their outrageously expensive designer coats and brocade-embroidered ermine coats to the wardrobe, they are immediately confiscated and auctioned off on eBay. After the performance you will receive a similar cheap item from our costume collection in return.”

After Wagner had forced us to listen to the Rhinemaidens Floßhilde, Wellgunde and Woglinde again, we dragged ourselves towards the exit with many river currents in our ears. There, two ridiculous-looking bouncers in Valkyrie costumes block the way and extend their palms demandingly towards us.

“Oh yes,” Wagner grins, “we will probably achieve the most turnover if our core group goes on stage and everyone wants to leave after fifteen minutes at the latest. That costs.” It slowly dawns on us where the desperate screams at the beginning of our visit came from. We accept the middle three-digit amount as the price of our freedom as a necessary evil. Just go away!

The good news: in the end, there is just enough of our savings left to buy two tickets for the next Wacken Open Air. Richard Wagner might even have been along this year.

The truth on taz.de

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