Due to prior commitments, I was able to listen to only the first 45 minutes or so of the Bayreuther Festspiele opening Ring cycle's Rheingold (minus the pedal-point and horn prelude), and missed Act I of the Siegfried altogether, but heard both the Walküre and Götterdämmerung complete. And if one thing has emerged from that listening it's that, notwithstanding an unexplainably botched showing at last year's opening Ring cycle, Christian Thielemann is, hands down and far and away, the best Wagner conductor working today, and can be counted among and is the equal of the greatest Wagner conductors of whom we have recorded record. As I've written elsewhere, Thielemann — an authentic possessor of what I've termed the "Wagner Gene" — possesses an intuitive understanding and grasp of the Wagnerian language and Wagnerian rhetoric that's simply flawless. His Wagner readings recall the Wagner readings of the Wagner Gene possessors of times past — Furtwängler, Knappertsbusch, Krauss, and Solti — with an added touch of that elegant sense of orchestral color and ensemble that was von Karajan's, and over these past seven days the Festspiele orchestra responded to his direction faultlessly with some of the most powerful, sensitive, and expressive playing I've heard from that ensemble in recent years. All told, a sterling reading of the four scores of the tetralogy. Would that the singers' performances had been half as sterling. With the single exception of Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka's Sieglinde, which role she sang at last year's Festspiele, and which performance showed her to be a Sieglinde for the ages, the rest of the tetralogy's cast were competent at best, and disappointing much of the time. No, I'll not engage in any detailed postmortem on that matter. Not worth my time — or yours.
All that's needed now is the surfacing of another Flagstad or Nilsson, another Melchior, and another Hotter, and we're all set to record for posterity a Ring for the ages.
Alas, not going to happen.