Bayreuth's Dorst/Thielemann Ring spins to an end later this month, after which Bayreuth takes a Ring-rest for a couple of years.
As Wagner-watchers will be well aware, no director has yet been announced for its 2013 replacement, the bicentennial production. This isn't just typical Festspiele secretiveness - they have genuinely yet to settle on someone after an earlier plan fell through. Various names have been suggested. One (Hans Neuenfels) has even suggested himself. The latest proposal, which the Festival management is said to be seriously entertaining, is to use a different director for each of the four operas, a solution which brings with it a whole new set of issues.
On the musical side things look a lot clearer. It was announced some time ago that Kirill Petrenko would conduct. Nobody has questioned this. But the ever-shifting tectonic plates of the German classical music scene continue to change the landscape, so perhaps it's time to re-examine the options.
Let's start by looking at Petrenko himself. No doubt he'd love to conduct the Bayreuth Ring, but he'd probably also love the top job at the Bavarian State Opera, which falls vacant when Kent Nagano leaves in 2012. Petrenko is said to be the most favoured candidate for this position. But he'd find it difficult, if not impossible, to combine with an effectively full-time Bayreuth job that would take him out of action for two key months of each year until 2018. He has a choice to make.
Now let's look at Thielemann. In the past he's ruled himself out of the 2013 Bayreuth production on the grounds that he was committed to a Baden Baden Ring with the Munich Philharmonic that year. But recent events mean that he, like Nagano, leaves Munich in 2012. So the Baden Baden project is off. That leaves him, the newly-appointed artistic advisor to the Festspiele management, with only Der fliegende Holländer to conduct at Bayreuth in Wagner's bicentenary year. Not much for the the maestro most Festspiele-goers would agree is the best Wagner conductor in the world.
So perhaps it's no surprise that tongues started to wag when it emerged last week that Petrenko hasn't yet signed a final contract for the Ring.