Controversy cannot diminish the appeal of the world’s most elite cultural event, the annual festival devoted to Richard Wagner. Founded by the composer himself in 1876, it still takes place under family leadership in the Bavarian town of Bayreuth, deliberately chosen for its remoteness from the urban modernity Wagner despised. Little has changed. The Festspielhaus retains its covered orchestra pit, lacks serious air conditioning, offers no supertitles in any language, and still imposes low-backed wooden seats on spectators. Since 2015, Wagner’s great-granddaughter Katharina has run the festival, amid rumors that her half-sister Eva was forced out in a tense test of wills. Wagnerians around the world still slavishly line up to attend. Ticket demand rests at around ten times availability. Despite calls to democratize access, most tickets remain available only to aspirants who can wait up to a decade before...


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