So, Katharina Wagner's not going to jail. Not yet anyway.
The German Staatsanwaltschaft (federal prosecutor) has ruled that it's not criminal for the Bayreuth Festival to hand out free tickets. Giving them away to the media and people in the art and culture field, as Bayreuth does, is OK. As is providing seats for "persons whose presence must be viewed as an advertising medium for the future popularity of the Wagner Festival" - or politicians and assorted micro-slebs.
In other words, while the Bayreuth Festspielhaus is crumbling away for lack of repair funds, while Cologne Opera is labouring under a massive deficit, and while music institutions across Germany are feeling the pinch, the German government has frittered away money merely to prove Bayreuth operates exactly the same ticketing privileges as any other opera house.
The inquiry was initiated last year by the German Bundesrechnungshof (federal audit office), which is responsible for monitoring government spending. The auditors were concerned that a chunk of Bayreuth's sought-after tickets go to the Friends Society (at full price), with a small proportion given away, leaving 'only' 70% for the general public.
But it's hard to understand why the investigation ever made it as far as the courts. Public subsidies only cover around a third of the Festival's costs, the Friends provide nearly as much funding as the state, and many other opera houses have a far smaller public allocation (around 20% at Covent Garden). Viewed in this light, Bayreuth's ticket policy looks positively generous, a practical compromise between the need to fund an expensive festival and Richard Wagner's utopian dream of free tickets for everyone.
What the auditors have failed to grasp is that opera is not, never has been and never will be value for money. The economics of opera would be best modelled by raking a load of banknotes into a heap and setting fire to it. As, it seems, would the economics of auditing.