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Germany’s Bayreuth Festival Reduces Choir Size

To save on finances, the festival has announced a 40% reduction of the choir as of 2024


To save on costs in all areas, the Bayreuth Festival has announced that its festival choir will be reduced from 134 members to 80 singers in 2024. 

The festival, founded by Richard Wagner in 1876 to perform his works, has stated that as its state subsidies will not increase and additional financial requirements would amount to several million euros in the coming years, it has developed proposals on how to counteract projected cost increases.

According to BR Klassik, “constructive negotiations” have been discussed with the festival orchestra and that “the choir [has been] invited to also develop constructive solutions in agreement with the festival management.”

The event organizers also stated that the future strength of its choir will be based on that of other large opera houses, including the Bavarian State Opera and the two Berlin opera houses.

The majority of the choir’s singers come from professional choruses from European opera houses and broadcasting companies; others work as freelance singers, soloists or in choruses, at different companies or in radio choirs. 

Since the announcement, the choir board and the Association of German Opera and Dance Ensembles (VdO) representation of the Bayreuth Festival Choir have contested the choir’s reduction and are requesting concrete figures and justifications for the decision and future economic plans. 

“The special choral sound, which — unique in the world — is traditionally part of the Bayreuth Festival, cannot be produced to the same extent when reduced to 80 members,” wrote VdO’s managing director Tobias Könemann and deputy director Gerrit Wedel in a statement to the festival. 

“The proposed choir size does not meet the artistic requirements and will affect the quality of the performances. The planned reduction in the collectively agreed size of the choir by 40% or 54 people would have significant effects that were not taken into account,” they added. 

“The festival choir consists of around 50% freelance singers, for whom their involvement in the Bayreuth Festival represents an important basis for their annual income…The Bayreuth Festival management was asked for a statement, in particular on the alleged funding gap and other savings options, but has not yet responded.”

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