KATHARINA WAGNER - BAPTISM OF FIRE
The Road to her Debut as Director in Bayreuth
In 2007, Katharina Wagner made her directing debut at the Bayreuth Festival – a debut unlike any other. For Katharina Wagner is none other than the great-granddaughter of Richard Wagner, the daughter of the long-time Bayreuth patriarch Wolfgang Wagner, and, in his eyes at least, his sole possible successor as head of the Bayreuth Festival. Rarely was the musical world's attention as focused on one opera production as on this staging of "Die Meistersinger."
Yet in spite of the enormous pressure on the 29-year-old director, the production was a resounding success, whereby critics clearly distinguished between Katharina Wagner's multi-layered, "weightlessly light" (Süddeutsche Zeitung) and never pedantic production and the – with a few exceptions – roundly criticized vocal and orchestral offerings. This documentary captures the excitement and fascination of a production-in-progress, the genesis not only of a new Bayreuth staging but also of a new Bayreuth director.
For eight months, Dagmar Krauss accompanied Katharina Wagner and her team, filming them in candid moments and revealing the inner workings of the Bayreuth Festival such as we have never seen before. Balancing the spontaneity of the roving camera are interviews and statements by singers and theater employees, as well as by director colleagues such as Christoph Schlingensief and conductors such as Christian Thielemann. As we witness the development of the production concept, we, too, are drawn into the excitement leading to the premiere on 25 July 2007.
The film paints the impressive portrait of a gifted, self-controlled, no-nonsense young woman who tackles a work that has stumped many an older and more experienced colleague and endows it with a new, contemporary, controversial message. She cunningly holds up a mirror to the festival public, both the traditional-minded, long-standing Wagnerians as well as the younger opera lovers who demand more risk and innovation. She offers a wealth of surprising views on art in general, demands that one take a stance, and even thematizes her own situation as potential head of the Bayreuth Festival. It is a production that holds its own with Bayreuth's best – and is captured here as it is being formed by a director the musical world will be hearing much more of in the future.