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Bayreuth's Wagner fest kicks off with new production of 'Tristan and Isolde' by festival chief

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BERLIN — Bayreuth's annual opera festival is kicking off with a new production of Richard Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" by the composer's great-granddaughter, festival director Katharina Wagner.

PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, second right, her husband Joachim Sauer, left, Bayreuth's Mayor Brigitte Merk-Erbe, second left and her husband Thomas Erbe, right, pose as they arrive for the opening of the Bayreuth Festival in Bayreuth, Germany, Saturday, July 25, 2015. The annual opera festival is kicking off with a new production of Richard Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" by the composer's great-granddaughter, festival director Katharina Wagner. (Tobias Hase/dpa via AP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, second right, her husband Joachim Sauer, left, Bayreuth's Mayor Brigitte Merk-Erbe, second left and her husband Thomas Erbe, right, pose as they arrive for the opening of the Bayreuth Festival in Bayreuth, Germany, Saturday, July 25, 2015. The annual opera festival is kicking off with a new production of Richard Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" by the composer's great-granddaughter, festival director Katharina Wagner. (Tobias Hase/dpa via AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, were among the guests at Saturday's opening performance in the Bavarian town. Merkel and Sauer are well-known opera fans and have regularly attended the opening show.

The new "Tristan and Isolde," conducted by Christian Thielemann, is the second opera Katharina Wagner has directed at Bayreuth and the first since she became co-leader of the festival along with half-sister Eva Wagner-Pasquier in 2008. Wagner-Pasquier will step down after this year's event, leaving the 37-year-old Wagner in sole charge.

This year's festival runs through Aug. 28.

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