President's Report June 2000

Dear Members,

I'm writing this report in the warm glow that followed our lunch to celebrate the birth of the Master, Richard Wagner. Held this year at the Women's Club, it was a very happy and successful day. Our guest speaker was Tim Calnin, the Artistic Administrator of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, who gave us some fascinating insights into the background of the Ring concerts the orchestra has been presenting over the last few years and which will culminate in September when we hear Gà ¶tterdämmerung. I think we would like to thank the Women's Club, and in particular Audrey Howarth, for all their help.

As many of you know, I have just returned from leading an Opera Australia tour to Germany and Eastern Europe during which we saw some of the best Wagner performances I have ever seen. In Dresden in the beautiful Semper Opera House we saw a Parsifal directed by Joachim Heilmann and sung by: Jukka Rasilainen as Amfortas, Kurt Moll as Gurnemanz, Poul Elming as Parsifal, Hildegard Behrens as Kundry and Ekkehard Wlaschiha as Klingsor. The production was visually pleasing and the music was outstanding - beautifully sung, and the orchestra under the guidance of Semyon Bychkov was excellent. This was without doubt the most satisfying Parsifal I have seen anywhere.

Then in Berlin we saw another Parsifal, this time at the Deutsche Oper. This was a very modern Gà ¶tz Friedrich production, which used an abstract, lined set and lighting to create the different scenes. Sung by Wolfgang Brendal, Lazlo Polgar, Robert Dean Smith, Doris Soffel and Lenus Carlson. It was a very good performance though the conductor, Christian Theilemann, took the first and third acts rather too slowly, but the second act was somewhat faster and really dramatic.

At the Staatsoper we then saw a wonderful Tristan und Isolde produced by Harry Kupfer and conducted by Daniel Barenboim. The set was a huge fallen angel in a graveyard - no ship - that rotated from time to time. Sung by Siegfried Jerusalem and Deborah Polaski this was a tour de force. Siegfried Jerusalem had rested his voice for some months prior to singing this role and he sang more strongly and securely than I have ever heard him, particularly in the third act when Tristan is angry as he contemplates his situation. He has lost Isolde, forfeited the trust of King Marke and is dying. In his frustration he pours out his despair and rage to Kurwenal, Andreas Schmidt. Deborah Polaski, too, was in great voice, strong, rich and creamy, a perfect foil for this Tristan. Rosemary Lang sang Brangäne with a sweetness not often heard. In every way this was an arresting performance and one I shall treasure for many years to come.

Our Annual General Meeting will be on 23rd July; please note the change of date. Several long time members of the Committee will be resigning and this will be an opportunity for members to express appreciation to them for their contributions to the smooth running of our Society. Those retiring are: Olive Coonan, Treasurer, Clare Hennessy, Membership Secretary and Barry Walters, Secretary. As well, Barbara Brady, our Newsletter editor, has resigned. Thus we shall be looking for new members for the Committee. So if you are able and interested in helping, please fill in a Nomination Form. You will be made very welcome.

Reluctantly, the Committee has resolved to ask the members, at the AGM, to approve an increase in membership fees. This increase is not related to the GST but reflects the level of our donations towards the various Wagner performances that seem to be becoming a little more frequent, and our support for the Bayreuth Scholarship. Our last increase was in the very early nineties, so I do seek your support.

My apologies for the June meeting as I am leaving next week to take a group to Berlin - the Gà ¶tz Friedrich Tristan und Isolde this time - and then on to Helsinki for the Ring Cycle. However I shall be back for the AGM.