Katharina Wagner will continue at the helm of the Bayreuth Festival for another five years. The German competition announced this Tuesday, after meeting the Minister of State for Culture, Claudia Roth (Greens), and the Minister of Art of Bavaria, Markus Blume (Christian Social Union), that it will keep the composer’s great-granddaughter until 2030. as director of what is the oldest opera festival in the world. It was founded by Richard Wagner himself in the Bavarian city, on the banks of the Main River, having a specific theater built to represent his own titles.

About to turn 46 this month, Katharina Wagner has been in charge of the institution for 16 years: first as co-director together with her stepsister Eva Wagner-Pasquier and then as sole director when she left the position in 2015. So it will have passed fifteen years reigning alone on the so-called Hill.

However, the festival has come to the conclusion in agreement with the government administrations that a general director will be appointed to manage the administrative and financial part, so that Katharina Wagner is dedicated solely to artistic decisions within the budget set by the shareholders.

“The general management will move to the new position of general director, who will be responsible for the festival from an organizational and economic point of view,” which should “allow him to focus even more on the artistic direction of the festival,” reads a joint statement from Munich and Berlin. These administrations each have a 29% stake in the festival, as does the Society of Friends of Bayreuth. The remaining 13% corresponds to the city of Bayreuth.

The solution would have been satisfactory for all parties, since the criticism against the heiress of the Wagner surname that came from one sector was especially against her for her financial management. The friction and power struggles between her and the commercial director, Ulrich Jagels, in relation to, for example, the increase in ticket prices, made the administrative machinery slower and more inflexible than it should have been.

But Katharina Wagner would continue to rule her artistic field, which has its own budget, and would ignore management, finances, building administration and marketing. “I am pleased with the confidence shown by shareholders and look forward to another five years of cooperation,” Wagner also stated in a statement. “I am glad that we have found a way to strengthen artistic autonomy. Now I can concentrate exclusively on creative work,” adds the stage director, who until now continued to ask without success for a professional sponsorship and marketing department for the festival.

“Katharina Wagner has taken a turn and has come out on top. She reaffirms her position and saves herself the headache of asking for quotes. Now she will be able to focus on choosing voices and musical and stage directors,” says opera critic and faithful follower of the Bayreuth festival Jordi Maddaleno.

In the world of opera there are also many who regret the artistic quality of its management and call for its replacement by an artistic director appointed by the administrations. However, according to the shareholders, Wagner has led the festival with great artistic success in recent years and, with the concept presented, has shown promising impulses for the artistic development of the festival, the statement said.

In fact, under his artistic tutelage, great festival hits have been recorded, such as when in 2013, on the occasion of Wagner’s bicentennial, the Ring premiered in which Franz Castorf followed the history of oil exploitation, a production that, despite From initial criticism, it became an event.

Also a milestone was the famous Lohengrin of the Rats conceived by Hans Neuenfels, or the successful Meistersinger by Barrie Kosky, the first Jew to direct a production of the opera most identified with the Nazis in the Wagnerian repertoire.

This year’s edition – from July 25 to August 27 – will mark a before and after in the history of festivals, since for the first time there will be more women than men on the opera podium. Both The Flying Dutchman (with Oksana Lynin) and Tannhäuser (Natalie Stutzman) and the Ring (the first Tetralogy directed by Simone Young) will feature a woman, which tips the balance. Only Pablo Heras Casado, who repeats his great success in Parsifal, and Semión Bychkov in Tristan und Isolde, will direct the artistic bodies of Bayreuth this summer. “And that’s thanks to Katharina Wagner,” Maddaleno recalls.

Even today there are too many fingers on one hand to count the women who are in charge of artistic direction in first division theaters and opera festivals. And curiously Bayreuth has maintained that parity, since after Richard Wagner’s death it was directed by his widow, Cosima Wagner, daughter of Franz Liszt, who was succeeded by Siegfried Wagner, his son. When he died at a young age, his widow, Winifred Wagner, also took over. Wolfgang and Wieland Wagner, the couple’s sons, went down in history as the great re-founders of the festival. They modernized and revolutionized it trying to cleanse it of the political and Nazi stench left by the Second World War. When Wieland died, whose performances are still remembered, Wolfgang, father of Eva and Katharina, remained alone. Thus, the third woman in the line of succession that runs it.