ARCHIV - 23.07.2021, Bayern, Bayreuth: Das Bayreuther Festspielhaus. Am 25.07.2022 beginnen dort die Bayreuther Festspiele. Foto: Daniel Karmann/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

At first he was only replaced during rehearsals, now it won’t be during the performances either: the Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen is so seriously ill that he is now handing over the musical direction of “Ring der Nibelungen” entirely to his colleague Cornelius Meister.

The Wagner fan base has been eagerly awaiting the new “Ring” cycle on the Green Hill for years. After postponements due to the corona pandemic, the time has finally come this summer – actually. Corona is once again disrupting the festival season. Festival spokesman Hubertus Herrmann announced on Friday: “A serious corona disease makes it impossible for him to take part in the important stage rehearsals with the orchestra.”

The festival management regrets this extremely. Inkinen will not be able to conduct – the cycle begins on July 31 with the premiere of “Rheingold”.

After all: a replacement is already there on the Green Hill in Bayreuth. Cornelius Meister, General Music Director of the Stuttgart State Opera, was actually booked for the opening premiere of “Tristan und Isolde” on July 25th. Now he unexpectedly becomes the “Ring” conductor. He had already taken over the rehearsals in the past few days after his colleague’s illness became known. “We are extremely grateful to Cornelius Meister to conduct the new production “Der Ring des Nibelungen”,” writes the festival management.

In order to be able to concentrate fully on the 16-hour “Ring” with its four evenings, the 42-year-old hands over the musical direction of the opening premiere with “Tristan und Isolde”.

Markus Poschner, head of the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, will take over and open the festival on July 25th. The former Chancellor Angela Merkel, a self-confessed fan of the music of Richard Wagner (1813-1883), is expected again, but the current Chancellor Olaf Scholz is not coming.

“Das Rheingold” will be followed by August 5th by “Die Walküre”, “Siegfried” and “Götterdämmerung”. Directed by Valentin Schwarz.

Castling in the middle of the final phase of rehearsals is definitely tricky. Especially since the festival program is particularly ambitious this summer. Not only the “Ring” is newly produced, “Tristan und Isolde” is also a new production. A total of five new productions, that is a novelty in Bayreuth.

This is also due to Corona. Because: “In the event of an infection, the game should still be maintained,” it said when the schedule was presented at the end of February. With “Tristan” the choir could be recorded, so it wouldn’t have to be on stage. The Corona cases have also recently increased among the choir members.

So there are many unknowns in Bayreuth, which last year took place under pandemic conditions – especially since there are other cases of infection among the participants. With the mask requirement and test offers, one wants to prevent further infections as far as possible.