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Bayreuth Festival finds replacement conductor just three weeks before its opening

Actors perform on stage during the rehearsal of the opera 'Meistersinger' of German composer Richard Wagner. Photograph: (Getty)

AFP Frankfurt, Germany Jul 06, 2016, 07.09 AM (IST)
Bayreuth Festival, the legendary summer music festival dedicated exclusively to the works of Richard Wagner, said it had found a replacement conductor for a new production of "Parsifal" just three weeks before it is scheduled to open.

Festival organisers said in a statement late Tuesday that east German-born conductor Hartmut Haenchen would take over from Latvian shooting star Andris Nelsons, who withdrew unexpectedly a week ago due to unspecified "differences".

"We are very pleased to welcome Hartmut Haenchen, an exciting artist and a passionate musician with an intimate knowledge of Wagner's works," said festival chief and the composer's great-granddaughter, Katharina Wagner.

"I am very grateful to Maestro Haenchen for taking the baton for the new production at such short notice and look forward to his first appearance at the Bayreuth Festival."

In a shock announcement last week, 37-year-old Nelsons, currently chief conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and soon to take up the baton at Germany's Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, threw in the towel.

"Owing to a differing approach in various matters, the atmosphere at this year's Bayreuth Festival did not develop in a mutually comfortable way for all parties," Nelsons' management had said.

Nelsons has previously conducted Wagner's "Lohengrin" in Bayreuth to unanimous critical acclaim.

His resignation, so soon before the opening night, sent shockwaves around the opera world.

The new production of "Parsifal" is being staged by German director Uwe Eric Laufenberg and is scheduled to open the festival on July 25 in a gala performance attended by Germany's political and social elite.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is a regular visitor, but will not be at the opening night owing to scheduling commitments.

Haenchen, 73, is well admired for his interpretations of Wagner, notably the mammoth four-opera "Ring" cycle in Amsterdam.

He has also conducted "Parsifal" in a number of different productions from Berlin and Stuttgart to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, and Brussels.

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