President's Report November 2004

A Letter from the President

Dear Members

Neidhardt Ring

This is our final Newsletter for 2004, and in less than 4 weeks the first cycle of the Neidhardt Ring in Adelaide will begin. This is an historic and monumental undertaking for the State Opera of South Australia, and we in the Eastern States, who cannot hope to dine on such exalted operatic fare in our own cities, will once again pilgrimage to Adelaide and its Festival Hall.

In his review of Ring productions at our July meeting, Dr Antony Ernst mentioned that many opera companies are destroyed by the demands of staging the Ring , as moths to a flame, and we must all hope that this is emphatically not the case for the State Opera of South Australia. Some stagings of the Ring disappear forever after their first performances, and again we must all hope that this can be revived in Adelaide , or perhaps staged in other cities here and overseas.

This Ring is being characterised by some commentators as the first truly Australian Ring , but I prefer to follow the Bayreuth tradition by naming this Ring after its producer, Elke Neidhardt. 'Nach Adelaide!'

Society Events

On Sunday 19 September , Dr Jim Leigh spoke about different recordings of the Ring and introduced the film made in November 1964 of the recording of the Solti Gotterdammerung in the Sofiensaal, Vienna . The film included a scene in which Solti talks about the choice of tempi for Siegfried's Funeral March, which John Culshaw has persuaded him to take at a faster tempo than he wants, and scenes of singers smoking socially which horrified many of us in this new prohibitionist age .

On Sunday 17 October , Dr Terence Watson , Dennis Mather and I are scheduled to talk briefly about different aspects of the Ring experience. This, along with Dr Leigh's talk and presentation, and perhaps the different view of the Ring that our end-of-year feature will provide, are our Society's contribution to members' preparation for Adelaide .

On Sunday 7 November , we will hold our last function of the year. This has been moved to 7 November so that members who wish to, may attend the University of Melbourne 's Wagner Seminar the following weekend (13 and 14 November). This will include a members market, and a DVD entitled 'Sing Faster! The Stagehand's Ring Cycle', which tells the story of a production of the Ring from the viewpoint of the San Francisco Opera's union stagehands.


2005 sees our 25 th anniversary and the 100th issue of our Newsletter. We intend to provide a fitting commemoration for these events, so watch your future Newsletters for details.

2005 is not going to be a good year for Wagner performance in Sydney , with performances by the SSO of the overture to Die Meistersinger (Act I) the only Wagner music to have been scheduled here so far. This will give the SSO the opportunity to wipe out the memory of the inadequate performance of this overture in August this year at the Wagner/Tchaikovsky concerts at which Lang Lang played Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto. The performance of the Tristan bookends at the same concert - the Prelude to Act I and 'milde und lise'ending Act III -was magical.

The only Wagner so far scheduled elsewhere in Australia in 2005 is a concert performance of Tristan und Isolde in Brisbane on Saturday 30 July.

Bayreuth 2005

We have applied on behalf of members for 10 tickets to next year's Bayreuth Festival, for Parsifal (Tuesday 23 August), Tannhäuser (Wed 24), Tristan und Isolde (Fri 26), Fliegender Hollander (Sat 27) and Lohengrin (Sun 28).

Visit by Joan Palet i Ibars

Because our Society doesn't have premises of its own, it's often difficult for overseas visitors to contact us when they are here in Sydney . I was therefore delighted recently when I was able to meet Joan Palet, a director of the Orquestra de Cambra Amics Dels Classics in Barcelona and a member of the Wagner Society in Barcelona , after he had tracked me down through the Conservatorium of Music and the Goethe Institut, during the last days of his visit to Sydney .

Mr Palet, who was visiting family in Sydney , was accompanied by two of his sisters, and a family friend who has able to translate for us. He presented the Society with a number of publications, including copies of the Wagner Society in Barcelona's quarterly magazine 'Wagneriana', a book in English entitled '100 years of Wagner in Catalonia', a publication celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Orquestra de Cambra Amics Dels Classics in Barcelona, with which Mr Palet was associated from 1937, first as a cellist, and later as a conductor for many years, and many other books. He also presented us with a commemorative CD issued in May 2003 by the Associacio Wagneriana in Barcelona , featuring this orchestra conducted by Mr Palet. Mr Palet's son, Joan Palet, is currently a cellist with the orchestra.

Although my meeting with Mr Palet was brief, and the tyranny of language made our communication awkward, I was overwhelmed by his warmth and generosity, and his enthusiasm for the music of Richard Wagner. It's a pity that he wasn't able to meet more of our members and attend one of our functions while he was here.

Robert Gay Lectures

Robert Gay's series of six lectures at Sydney University's newly relocated Centre for Continuing Education entitled 'Gods, heroes and dwarves: Wagner in Adelaide 2004' has begun. There are two classes each Thursday, one in the afternoon and the other in the evening, which are both fully subscribed and accommodate 60 students each. There was so much interest in these talks that the CCE was obliged to close the waiting lists. Curiously, they did not move the lectures to larger venues, or do anything else which might have allowed more people to attend, and it's difficult for outsiders to understand the CCE's management's apparent indifference to satisfying the demands of fee-paying students.

Olive Coonan

A death notice appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 4 September for Olive Coonan, a former member of the Society. Olive joined the Society in April 1983, and was at different times its president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, from which position she retired at the AGM in July 2000.

Olive was made an honorary life member at that meeting in recognition of her services to the Society, but resigned from the Society and from her honorary life membership in May 2001 after irregularities were found in the Society's financial records. Olive died on September 1, aged 74. She is survived by her eight children, sixteen grand-children and one great-grand-daughter.

Roger Cruickshank 10 October 2004