March / June / December 1999
So much has happened since my last report to you and it is clear that the success of the Adelaide Ring has given Wagner Societies around Australia a new breath of life. It was wonderful to meet members from the other Australian Societies as well as those from England, Europe and the States.
Part of the excitement was meeting overseas visitors in Sydney and sharing our beautiful city with them. Amongst those visiting Sydney were Danila Mendoza and Verena Kossoto from New York. Those members who have attended the New York Wagner Society lectures in Bayreuth will remember Verena. Elizabeth Samson from Los Angeles was here for a few days as were Peter Haggblom, Tapio Eriksson and Teijo Saaari from Finland.
While attending a performance at the Sydney Opera House recently the complete stranger sitting beside me asked "Did you go to Adelaide?" and launched into his impressions with enthusiasm. It was his first Ring and the performances had made an indelible impression.
We were delighted to have Stephen Phillips, the Managing Director of the State Opera of South Australia, as our guest speaker at the February meeting this year and to hear first hand what had gone into the years of planning for such a massive undertaking. Following its triumphant success we are delighted to hear that the South Australian Government has set up a Consortium to develop a Management Model for a possible new Australian Ring at a future date.
While I was in Adelaide Oswald Bauer, whom some members met at dinner at the Bennelong in November, made a point of repeating his thanks and saying how much he had enjoyed the evening particularly the enthusiasm and knowledge of those present.
The Richard Wagner Society of South Australia and those others responsible for arranging the International Seminar, displays, films, lectures and social gatherings that kept us all involved are to be heartily congratulated. Our time in Adelaide was busy, interesting and stimulating.
As a result of Adelaide, Olive Coonan and I had a brief meeting just before Christmas with Heath and Liz Lees who are founding members of the New Zealand Wagner Society. Heath is anxious to try and establish Australasian Wagner links and as a result of our conversation some 30 members of the New Zealand Society are expected to come to Sydney for the Siegfried concert on Saturday, 26 June. Tentative plans are being made to run a short seminar on the Saturday morning, before the concert, at the Goethe Institut. Further information will be sent to you in April, together with the invitation to the Annual Lunch which will be held in May, once details are finalised.
On a sadder note we mourned the death of Alastair Mackerras, a member of the Society, who made such an outstanding contribution to the life of this city not only as headmaster of Sydney Grammar School but in many other areas.
Peter Haggblom from Finland has sent me details of a Ring to be performed in Helsinki in June 2000 and arrangements are being made to reserve a number of tickets. Details of the casts will be included in the next newsletter but if any one is interested in going please contact me so I can keep you informed. It is expected that the Finnish Wagner Society will arrange a range of activities to coincide with the performances.
The year has started with a burst of enthusiasm and I hope we can build on this and make 1999 another outstanding year.
This year seems to be going from strength to strength. The weekend at Pokolbin was a great success when 17 members were warmly welcomed to Catersfield by our hosts Rosemary Cater-Smith and Alec Cater. Robert Gibson gave two excellent lectures which stimulated much discussion, and our gala dinner became a tour de force when a six o'clock thunderstorm caused a five-hour blackout and we dined by candle-light and marvelled at the skill of the caterers who produced a delicious, multi course meal despite enormous difficulty. I do thank those members who wrote letters of thanks and appreciation - and yes, we will try to arrange another weekend next year. Our heartfelt thanks go to Rosemary and Alec who ensured that everything went smoothly.
In March we opened our own Internet homepage and our thanks go to many people. First to Dennis Mather who suggested the idea to me. Then to Terence Watson and Roger Cruickshank who formed a small sub-committee to carry the task forward with the help of Dennis, John Studdert, and Marc Greyling. Barbara Brady has now joined them to provide liaison with the Newsletter. Marc has done a huge amount of work in launching our page and has offered to undertake responsibility for maintaining it on a voluntary basis. We greatly appreciate Marc's enthusiasm, expertise and generosity. You will find our page on http://www.wagner-nsw.org.au.
It is now up to us all to contribute views and information to demonstrate our awareness, interest and involvement in Wagnerian events both here and overseas.
As our page was launched we were overwhelmed by an offer from Betty and Reg Maloney to meet the costs associated with its development, an offer we accepted with great pleasure. It is indeed fitting that two of our Foundation Members should be the ones to lead us into the future and we do thank them both.
I regret that I was not at the Annual Lunch this year. but I know Clare Hennessy made everyone very welcome. As you were enjoying your meal I was drinking a toast to the Master in Prague on my roundabout way to the San Francisco Ring with some fellow Wagnerians.
This month sees the two SSO Siegfried concerts and we are proud to sponsor Danny Sumegi in the role of Fafner. The response to the concerts has been excellent and we reserved over 100 tickets with Wagner lovers coming from New Zealand, Melbourne and Adelaide.
The first Australasian Seminar on Saturday 26th June at the Goethe Institut, prior to the Siegfried performance, will be very well attended. Speakers will be Professor Heath Lees from New Zealand and Robert Gibson from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Bookings are essential, as we shall be serving a light lunch, so please ring Barry Walters on (02) 9387 6642 for information.
Finally two of our members have been ill recently: Betty Maloney and Elizabeth Jones, and we do wish them both a speedy recovery.
In May I was lucky enough to spend a month in Europe on my way to the San Francisco Ring and was able to enjoy opera in Dresden, Vienna, Prague and Berlin. Amongst the works I saw Rienzi, Lohengrin and Dutchman and Rheingold.
Rienzi at the Staatsoper in Vienna was interesting as this is a work I had not seen. The music was very well played and sung and Glen Winslade sang Rienzi strongly though he did seem to tire towards the end. The production, an allegory on National Socialism, was rather bleak and violent but clearly made the point that power corrupts. It was a surprise to run into Arthur Carter, one of our members, at interval. Lohengrin at the beautiful Dresden Opera was vastly different. Set entirely indoors it was a visually beautiful production well sung and most enjoyable. In Berlin Dutchman was at the Deutsche Oper and Rheingold at the Staatsoper. Both were interesting productions and reasonably well sung though I was somewhat disappointed with the orchestra under Barenboim in Rheingold.
The San Francisco Ring was interesting with some very memorable scenes. The orchestra was highly praised and though Jane Eaglen was ill she did sing most beautifully and John Tomlinson was superb as Wotan. Wolfgang Schmidt, not my favourite Siegfried, seemed to be singing rather more lyrically than in the past and the production treated the character of Siegfried more kindly which made the role more attractive. Gotterdammerung started very well but fell apart badly in the second act when the momentum seemed to get lost. Fortunately the final act was outstanding and the overall impression was of satisfaction.
Home again and the year seems to have passed very quickly and we have enjoyed some very special events at our meetings. Those of you at our September meeting shared a very special experience when Stephen Mould and Warwick Fyfe were our guests. Stephen's report of his time in Europe, as the 1998 Bayreuth Scholar, was most interesting and then to our delight Stephen and Warwick performed a program of Strauss and Wagner songs. It was a very exciting afternoon and everyone present was impressed with the quality of the performance. We thank them very much and wish them both every success in the future.
In September Terence Watson gave a most interesting talk on "Power in the Ring". Unfortunately I was unable to be present on this occasion but many members have told me how much they enjoyed the lecture and I am pleased to tell you that it will be published as an Occasional Paper in the near future. This is the second paper we have published this year ( the first was Peter Nicholson's "Wagner as Artist") and it is very gratifying to reflect on the depth of knowledge of so many of our members and the willingness with which they share their interest and ideas.
Our next function is the Christmas party and I do hope as many of you as possible will join with us to celebrate. On behalf of all members of the Committee I would like to wish you all a very happy festive season and hope the New Year will be a happy and healthy one.