Wagner women in epic battle to lead opera festival

Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:49am EDT
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By Kerstin Gehmlich

BERLIN (Reuters) - The curtain may be rising on the final act of an epic leadership battle at Germany's Wagner Festival after family patriarch Wolfgang Wagner said he was ready to go if his two daughters took over jointly.

In what media have called the "war of the cousins," three great-grand-daughters of Richard Wagner have fought for years for the right to succeed Wolfgang Wagner, his grandson who, at 88, has led the opera festival since 1951.

Wolfgang Wagner indicated to sponsors last week that he was willing to step down if his daughter from a first marriage, Eva Wagner-Pasquier, 63, and her much younger half-sister Katharina, 29, took the reins together.

The two rivals, who media say had not talked to each other in years, are to submit a proposal to the Richard Wagner Foundation in the next few weeks on how they intend to lead one of the world's top opera festivals.

Katharina said they had grown closer since last year's death of Wolfgang's second wife Gudrun, Katharina's mother.

"We have realized we get on well and we actually don't think that differently," she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper this week.

"There is some sisterly affinity."

In 2001, the foundation chose Eva, a theatre manager, as Wolfgang's successor, but he refused to step down, insisting his contract was for life.   Continued...

<p>Wolfgang Wagner his wife Gudrun (2nd L) their daughter Katharina (2nd R) and Karin Stoiber, the wife of Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber arrive for the opening of this year's Bayreuth Wagner opera festival outside the so-called Gruener Huegel (Green Hill) opera house in Bayreuth July 25, 2007. REUTERS/Michael Dalder</p>