Richard Wagner

Bayreuth's annual opera festival has gotten off to an unexpectedly dramatic start, with a technical malfunction forcing an interruption shortly after the opening performance of Richard Wagner's "Tannhauser" kicked off.

German news agency dpa, citing its reporters at Friday's performance, said the audience was asked to leave the auditorium after about 20 minutes for safety reasons. It said spectators heard two bangs and saw parts break off a mobile cage on the stage.

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The performance resumed about 50 minutes later. German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters said: "If the technology is the only thing that doesn't work, then we can live with it."

But according to an AFP report, things only got worse once the performance resumed. Director Sebastian Baumgarten sets Wagner's tale of redemption in a "modern bio-gas plant and the boos and whistles were almost deafening when director Baumgarten took his bows at the end of the evening."

"It's awful," one festival goer said of Baumgarten's production. "It's got absolutely nothing to do with Wagner's intentions."

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who often attends Bayreuth's opening performance, was not there this year, but is expected to go at a later date.

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