Agence France-Presse

FRANKFURT, July 14 (AFP) ó The new production of Richard Wagner's final opera, Parsifal, at this year's legendary Bayreuth Festival could anger many dyed-in-the-wool Wagnerians, director Christoph Schlingensief said in a magazine interview released Wednesday.
Christoph SchlingensiefIn remarks due to be published in the latest edition of the weekly magazine Stern, the 43-year-old enfant terrible of German theatre warned that his new staging of Parsifal, which will open this year's festival on July 25, could alienate many.
"I'll have to think where I'm going to run to afterwards, because some people are going to take very great offence at my production," the spiky-haired, iconoclastic director said.
"If my enemies boo at the premiere, that's OK, as long as I know I've developed new pictures that I can take with me to some new project," said Schlingensief, who has never directed an opera before.
But even if the new production was a flop, Schlingensief said he was not concerned about any negative fallout on his future career. "You're not dead after Bayreuth. In Bayreuth, everything moves on mercilessly. I do, too."
Earlier this month, Schlingensief plunged preparations for the prestigious annual summer music festival dedicated exclusively to Wagner's works into disarray by going absent without leave following a row with the composer's grandson and festival boss Wolfgang Wagner.
Schlingensief only resumed work after both sides settled their differences and the agent provocateur secured promises from the festival management to respect his artistic freedom.
In a separate interview published in the daily S¸ddeutsche Zeitung, Schlingensief said work in rehearsals had proceeded so far that he had now managed to implement around 30 percent of his ideas.
"By the premiere, I might even be able to manage 50 percent," he said, without providing further details. The production is being conducted by French avant-garde [sic] composer Pierre Boulez, who was the musical director for Patrice ChÈreau's legendary Ring cycle in Bayreuth in 1976.
The Èminence grise of contemporary music had offered plenty of good advice and even helped mediate between Schlingensief and Wolfgang Wagner, the director said.
The choice of Schlingensief to stage this year's sole new production in Bayreuth raised many an eyebrow in the classical music world.
His appointment was seen as a high-stakes gamble by 84-year-old Wolfgang to inject some new life into the festival, so frequently accused by its detractors of being artistically ossified.
Lars von Trier (photo: also engaged controversial Danish film director Lars von Trier to stage a brand new production of Wagner's gigantic four-opera Ring cycle in 2006. But that gamble does not appear to have paid off. In a shock announcement, von Trier threw in the towel, saying he did not feel up to the task. Like Schlingensief, he, too, has never directed an opera before.
Bayreuth's opening night is a traditionally glitzy affair, attended by Germany's political and social elite.
The festival runs until August 28, during which Parsifal is scheduled to be performed six times. Also on the programme this year is Philippe Arlaud's critically panned production of Tannh‰user, entering its third year, J¸rgen Flimm's five-year-old production of the Ring and Claus Guth's critically acclaimed production of Der fliegende Holl‰nder (The Flying Dutchman), which had been premiered for the first time last year.

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