Wagnerian Dish: Nike Wagner Chats About Opera, Nazis and More

Richard Wagner's Bayreuth home, Wahnfried.(Photo: maha-online (Flickr))
Richard Wagner's Bayreuth home, Wahnfried.(Photo: maha-online (Flickr))

It can’t be easy being the descendant of not one, but two historically significant and uniquely controversial composers – especially when those composers are the musically and personally unusual Franz Liszt and the musically and politically outlandish Richard Wagner.

In an interview published recently in Germany’s Der Spiegel International, Nike Wagner spoke about her great-great-grandfather Liszt and great-grandfather Wagner in terms almost shockingly candid.

She paints her family as obsessed with promoting Richard Wagner’s accomplishments and willfully ignorant of those of their ancestor Liszt. She calls the Bayreuth Festspielhaus’ neglecting to hold a 2011 Liszt bicentennial celebration “incomprehensible, embarrassing and scandalous” – and she doesn’t stop there:

The Wagners are deeply indebted to Liszt. It would be historically irresponsible to deny that. I was deeply hurt that my cousins were deaf to my appeals to open up the concert hall for a major festival and birthday concert on October 22. It would have been a wonderful event, as well as a way to start repaying that debt.

Nike Wagner also adds nuance to the pervasive claim that the Wagners are a family of Nazi sympathizers. She says her father, Wieland Wagner, did not agree with the Nazi politics of his mother, Hitler friend Winifried Wagner. Instead, she says:

Exactly 60 years ago, Wieland Wagner took the helm and began his revolutionary direction, cleansing Bayreuth of its Nazi past, both stylistically and ideologically.

And Nike Wagner’s opinions about German chancellor Angela Merkel?

Read more to find out: The Bayreuth Clan: Nike Wagner on Her Family’s Past (Der Spiegel International)

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