The controversy started immediately after the official announcement by Festspielchef Wolfgang Wagner that the 2004 Bayreuth Festival would open with a new production of Parsifal directed by Germany's enfant-terrible, Christoph Schlingensief (1960-2010). The cultural and political right braced themselves for the inevitability that Wagner's most sacred and protected work was going to be trashed in the course of the director's first foray into opera. In the months prior to the opening, the German tabloids were filled with reports of clashes between Mr. Schlingensief and Wolfgang Wagner, and days before the première, tenor Endrik Wottrich, scheduled to sing the title role, denounced the production as an "abomination" and accused the director of being a Nazi. Schlingensief was quick to point out that Wottrich was a racist who objected to the numerous black actors in the new production.

Footage of the Parsifal Decomposing Rabbit from this production
Cast, Crew, and Pictures of the 2004 Bayreuth Parsifal
First Performance : July 25, 2004
Amfortas -- Alexander Marco-Buhrmester
Titurel -- Kwangchul Youn
Gurnemanz -- Robert Holl
Parsifal -- Endrik Wottrich
Klingsor -- John Wegner
Kundry -- Michelle de Youn
Musical Direction: Pierre Boulez
Production: Christoph Schlingensief
Sets: Daniel Angermayr
Thomas George
Costumes: Tabea Braun
Lighting: Voxi Bärenklau

Here is a lecture by Edward A. Bortnichak and Paula M Bortnichak of the University of Pennsylvania. The lecture is called "Bayreuth as Bardo: Schlingensief's Parsifal Production."

Boulez and Schlingensief take a curtain call after a performance of Parsifal in 2005.
Christoph Schlingensief died of lung cancer on August 21, 2010 in Berlin, Germany at age 49.