September 1, 2008 / 6:03 PM / 10 years ago

Wagner offspring win epic family battle for opera

BERLIN (Reuters) - Two great-granddaughters of composer Richard Wagner will take control of Germany’s Wagner opera festival after winning an epic family power struggle.

Katharina Wagner waves as she arrives 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

The Richard Wagner Foundation announced on Monday that Eva Wagner-Pasquier, 63, and her half-sister Katharina Wagner, 30, would take over the festival in Bayreuth after 89-year-old Wolfgang Wagner stepped down last month.

After Wolfgang Wagner’s 57-year reign as head of the festival in the Bavarian town ended, a fierce battle for succession erupted, pitting Wagner-Pasquier and Katharina Wagner against their cousin Nike Wagner, 63.

Wagner-Pasquier is Wolfgang Wagner’s daughter from his first marriage. German media said the two women had not spoken to each other for years and had only recently renewed relations in order to prepare their joint bid.

Wagner-Pasquier is an experienced theatre manager. Katharina Wagner celebrated her directing debut at the Wagner festival last year and has supported projects such as an open-air public screening of operas.

“We’re grateful that the wrangling over the festival is finally behind us,” said Wagner-Pasquier.

“We want to preserve the unmatched position of the festival,” said Katharina Wagner. “Naturally we’ve been listening to the criticism and will take it to heart.”

Nike Wagner had hoped to run the prestigious event jointly with opera manager Gerard Mortier.

The foundation said it appreciated that two generations would be involved in running the festival, a spokeswoman said. In the end the winners received 22 of the foundation’s 24 votes.

Richard Wagner himself inaugurated the purpose-built opera house at Bayreuth in southeast Germany in 1876 after searching in vain for a venue big enough to stage epic operas such as his four-part Ring cycle.

Demand for the annual festival is so high that fans can wait up to 10 years for a ticket.

Reporting by Josie Cox; Editing by Giles Elgood

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