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Germany's famed opera Bayreuth Festival faces deep budget cuts

Published : 25 Nov 2023, 02:32

  By Britta Schultejans, dpa
Ursula von der Leyen (CDU), President of the EU Commission, and husband Heiko arrive in the rain for the opening of the Richard Wagner Festival with a new "Parsifal" at the Festspielhaus on the Grüner Hügel, end of July 2023. File Photo: Daniel Karmann/dpa.

Germany's Bayreuth Festival, the world-famous annual opera series featuring the works of composer Richard Wagner, is facing deep budget cuts due to rising costs.

Festival organizers plan to slash the size of the choir and extract "six-figure savings" in the orchestra, the festival announced on Friday.

"The additional financial requirement in subsequent years will cumulatively amount to several million euros," the Bayreuth Festival said in a statement on Friday.

State subsidies for the opera festival won't be increased, the festival said, which has forced management to "develop proposals on how to counteract the expected cost increases."

Threatened job cuts of 40% at the chorus would reduce the number of members from 134 to 80 in the coming year, according to the Association of German Opera and Dance Ensembles (VdO) on Friday.

"The Bayreuth Festival has been asked to make extensive savings in order to compensate for increased costs and upcoming pay rises," the Bayreuth Festival said in a statement to dpa. "The future chorus size will be based on that of other large opera houses, such as the Bavarian State Opera and the two Berlin opera houses."

The chorus will continue to be augmented by a special choir for productions, according to festival management.

"The decision was made in agreement with the shareholders of the Bayreuth Festival," the festival announced.

According to the festival, the cost-savings plan affects "all departments and areas." Management said that significant savings were made in the technology budget,

In constructive negotiations with the orchestra, the festival said that "amicable solutions have been reached" that "will ensure the high quality in the future."

The VdO and the orchestra board, however, expressed "incomprehension" at the "drastic cuts" and demanded that management provide "concrete figures and reasons for this decision."

They called on the festival management "not only to think about savings, but also to examine alternative financing options, such as extended sponsorship or support from political circles."

Such deep cuts to the chorus, they contended, would make it impossible to maintain the "special choral sound ... unique in the world" that has been characteristic of the Bayreuth Festival.