March 22, 2010 / 3:59 PM / 9 years ago

Wagner's grandson dies at age 90

Wolfgang Wagner jokes with the media prior to the opening ceremony of the Wagner opera festival in Bayreuth, Germany, July 25, 1999. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

BERLIN (Reuters) - Wolfgang Wagner, a grandson of German composer Richard Wagner, who carried the torch of the family’s musical legacy, has died at age 90.

For 57 years since 1951, Wagner directed the annual Bayreuth Festival in the southern state of Bavaria. He worked initially alongside his brother, Wieland Wagner, until his death in 1966.

“Wolfgang Wagner devoted his entire life to the legacy of his famous grandfather,” the festival said in a statement after his death on Sunday.

The festival, also known as the Richard Wagner Festival, dates back to 1876 and consists of opera performances such as “Tristan und Isolde” composed in the 19th century.

Held in July and August, it has played to sold out crowds since the mid-1950s. Eager opera enthusiasts can wait as long as 10 years for tickets to the Bayreuth Festspielhaus theater.

Wolfgang Wagner was born in 1919 in Bayreuth, Germany, the third child of Siegfried and Winifred Wagner. He and his brother resurrected the Bayreuth Festival in 1951, after a war court removed Winifred, a Nazi supporter, from her position as head.

Following his brother’s death, Wagner continued to administer the festival, but handed over production of the operas to a number of well-known, experimental directors, which has helped keep the festival fresh over the years.

Since then, Wagner had worked with directors Goetz Friedrich of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Sir Peter Hall of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Heiner Mueller of the Berliner Ensemble.

“Wagner lived a happy and fulfilled life that was inseparable from the Bayreuth Festival... We are all very sad,” festival spokesman Peter Emmerich told Reuters.

Reporting by Christopher Lawton; Editing by Steve Addison

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