Wolfgang Wagner, grandson of composer Richard Wagner, has submitted a letter of resignation as director of the famed Bayreuth opera festival in Germany. The 88 year-old Wagner has held the position of director since 1951, when he assumed leadership with his late brother, Wieland, from their mother who was removed of her duties after she was convicted of being a Nazi sympathizer. Both brothers worked to modernize the festival with productions that renounced traditional, state-dictated staging.
The popular festival was started by the composer as a showcase for his operas and continues to produce only Wagner compositions. The Festspielhaus, built in 1876, continues as home to the Bayreuth festival. Outside a brief time when it was operated by the Nazi party, the festival has always been run by Richard Wagner and his family. Wolfgang Wagner has suggested that the reins be passed on to his daughters, Eva Wagner-Pasquier (63) and Katharina Wagner (29). Wieland’s daughter, Nike, has also expressed an interest in the directorship. Wolfgang discussed retiring in 1999, but when the festival’s board of directors balked at putting his second wife, Gudrun, in the position, he exercised language in his contract that made him director for life. Gudrun died in 2006.