Nike Wagner

Richard Wagner’s great-granddaughter is the new director of the Beethoven Festival in Bonn.

Barbara Frommann - Beethoven Festival

She could easily be dubbed “the gifted matchmaker”, because few people are so amazingly successful at creating a dream couple from the provincial idyll and world-class art as Nike Wagner.

That was the case in Weimar, where she headed the Pèlerinages Arts Festival for the past ten years with utmost success and the highest artistic quality. And in 2014 it will be the same story in Bonn where, at 69 years of age, she has been appointed as director of the Beethoven Festival.

Because they “dearly loved their Ludwig”

Nike Wagner’s new assignment is almost a family affair. After all, her great-great grandfather, the pianist and composer Franz Liszt, was a co-founder of the Beethoven Festival in 1845. And Liszt gave his stunning performances not only at that festival but especially in smaller towns. In an interview with the Bonn daily newspaper General-Anzeiger, Nike Wagner said that Liszt’s festival concept was ground-breaking, both then and now, because it was not only open and democratic but also emphasised innovation. She contrasted this with the concept of her great-grandfather Richard Wagner whose Bayreuth Festivals were more “closed, monomaniac and cult-like”. Nevertheless, both of her ancestors had one thing in common: they “dearly loved their Ludwig” – their Ludwig van Beethoven.

The cultural scholar has always been an intrepid and aggressive critic of her ancestral baggage and has also made her mark as an author and brilliant essayist. Nike Wagner is a member of the German Academy for Language and Literature and has been its vice president since 2011. But these are by no means all of the positions in her list of impressive references. And now she can add the Beethoven Festival in Bonn to it. How fitting that the 2014 festival theme for more than 60 events is Götterfunken (Divine Spark). It refers to joy (the daughter from Elysium), the flashing and glittering spark that leaps across when things that belong together meet – such as the provincial idyll and world-class art.

Beethoven Festival from 6 September until 3 October 2014 in Bonn