Controversial director Frank Castorf accuses Wagner’s heirs of artistic interference.

Controversial German director Frank Castorf has enlisted a lawyer to defend his artistic license in the wake of his centenary rendition of Wagner’s Ring cycle seen at Bayreuth last year.

According to Der Tagesspiegel, following a slew of mixed to dreadful reviews for his direction of the cycle for Wagner’s 200th birthday, the Bayreuth Festival directors Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier allegedly tweaked a few elements, including recasting the key role of Alberich (originally Martin Winkler). The composer’s descendants also attempted to forbid Castorf’s placement on stage of a poster for the NPD (a German political party with neo-Nazi leanings), a prohibition that his since been withdrawn.

Now, attorney Gregor Gysi is representing Castorf (Artistic Director of the Berlin’s prestigious Volksbühne theatre) in his attempt to reinstate his original interpretation of the cycle, arguing that it is simply “fear, caution and kneejerk obedience” that is holding back the Festival directors. “The financial opportunities in Bayreuth have shrunk to the point of caricature,” says Castorf, claiming that a penny-pinching atmosphere has led to a case of creative restraint.

Castorf’s interpretation included “blowjobs, crocodiles and a communist Mount Rushmore,” as reported by German newspaper Die Welt last July. “This Ring of the Nibelung is not to be taken seriously.”

Castorf maintains that last year the Festival management were more than happy with a touch of scandal in order to be provocative and spark artistic discussions. This year, Castorf says, the Festival has got a case of cold feet. “All the anarchy I brought here last year with my stage designer Aleksandar Dénic is no longer desirable,” laments Castorf.

For more detail on last year’s performance see the Limelight article.

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