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Last Updated: Monday, 26 July, 2004, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
German crowd jeers Wagner opera
Wolfgang Wagner (c) with wife Gudrun (r) and daughter Katharina
Wolfgang Wagner, the composer's grandson, is leading the festival
A staging of Wagner's opera Parsifal by controversial German director Christoph Schlingensief was loudly booed at the opening of the Bayreuth Festival.

The five-hour epic launched the 93rd edition of Germany's most prestigious festival on Sunday.

Schlingensief, 43, said he saw the work - cast as a pagan-Christian cult - as "a sort of near-death experience".

German tenor Endrik Wottrich, who sang the title role, had earlier denounced the production as an "abomination".

Schlingensief told Germany's Stern magazine he would have to plan where he could hide afterwards "because some people will really resent my production".


But a widely expected scandal at the conservative southern German festival failed to materialise.

Schlingensief's complex, multi-layered visuals seemed more to confuse than provoke the audience, leaving many perplexed and grasping for meaning.

Bavaria's state premier, Edmund Stoiber, said during one of the hour-long intermissions: "There is so much to distract you. The external impressions are so strong that it's almost a completely new Parsifal."

Wolfgang Wagner, 82, a grandson of the composer who heads the festival, chose Schlingensiel to direct Parsifal after the festival was criticised for being staid.

Schlingensief is regarded as an enfant terrible of German theatre known for his provocative productions and occasional performance art.

The guest list included the president-elect of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, and German opposition leader Angela Merkel.

The festival, which is expected to draw 60,000 people, contains 30 performances, including Goetterdaemmerung and Tannhaeuser. It runs until 28 August.

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