The controversial German artist Jonathan Meese, who was supposed to direct Bayreuth’s 2016 production of “Parsifal,” has been sacked by the festival’s directorship. The official explanation given was that Meese’s concept was unrealistically over-budget, a claim that should raise a few eyebrows, in light of how well-funded the Bayreuth Festival is.
In an interview with Der Spiegel, Messe lashed out against the festival, which is currently headed by Richard Wagner’s granddaughter Katharina Wagner and her half-sister Eva Wagner-Pasquier. “Art has no place in Bayreuth,” he told the magazine, concluding that, “Meese didn’t fail with Wagner, Bayreuth failed with Meese.”
In recent years, the festival has come under attack for the Wagner sisters’ uneven leadership. Frank Castorf’s 2013 Ring Cycle was nearly-universally panned.
“The Bayreuth Festival is no longer concerned about art, but self preservation, power, and the battle against its declining relevance,” Meese is quoted as saying. “It’s a culture of giving and taking orders. They intimidate, they are cynical liars and try to manipulate art and people,” the artist continued. These are strongly-worded and serious accusations, in light of the festival’s long struggle to overcome the stain of it’s Nazi-era associations as well as Wagner’s own racist and xenophobic beliefs.
Meese’s replacement is Uwe Eric Laufenberg, the intendant of the Staatstheater Wiesbaden.