Radio concert marks German Bayreuth Festival cancelled opening night

The Bayreuth Festival in celebration of German composer Richard Wagner on Saturday replaced its usual raucous opening night with a radio concert played to empty seats.

Fourteen musicians gave the concert at Wagner’s former residence, the Villa Wahnfried, led by German conductor Christian Thielemann.

“We are at least showing that we all want to [play],” Thielemann said shortly before the concert was broadcast by the Bayerischer Rundfunk Bavarian public-service radio station.

The opera festival, opened by Wagner in 1876, is one of the high points of the German social calender.

It is regularly attended by opera lovers and celebrities, including Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband, Professor Joachim Sauer.

This year’s edition was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Festival acting managing director Heinz-Dieter Sense said on Friday he is now optimistic that the 2021 season will go ahead as “normal” despite the virus.

“I believe that we will host the festival as usual next year,” he told German daily newspaper Nordbayerischer Kurier. When asked about social distancing measures for musicians, he said the problem would not exist next year.

“As soon as the pandemic is over and people from other countries are able to return, this place will work its magic on visitors again,” Sense said.

Because of this year’s cancellation, the festival faces a loss of 15 million euros (17 million dollars), co-director Holger von Berg told dpa.

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