March / June / September 1984
The occasion of a lecture by our Patron, Sir Charles Mackerras, is one we can look forward to with a great deal of interest. Many members will remember how, two years ago, he entertained us with a lively discussion on the subject of concert performances of Wagner. Since that time Sir Charles’ busy schedule has prevented him from spending any time with us, although he did generously stand last year as Chief Adjudicator in the Wagner Society Scholarship judging panel and gave us much helpful advice concerning that event. He is now returning to Sydney in mid-March after conducting engagements in London, Vienna and New York, to name but a few of the principal cities.
For the ABC, Sir Charles has a monumental programme ahead of him, with a time schedule that is less than dignified for a conductor of such repute. Fortunately, he has a major work of his beloved Wagner to present — “Siegfrled” in Melbourne — and for Sydney there will be a concert performance of the epic “Trojans” by Berlioz. The fact that the controlling forces behind the S.S.O. have seen fit to spread this rarely heard work over two nights will not, one hopes, diminish its impact. Wagner was greatly influenced by Berlioz’s use of orchestral textures, so no doubt we will have some interesting comparisons to make when we hear these lush sounds fill the Concert Hall.
Sir Charles’ talk to us on the 27th March is as yet untitled, but his ready wit is sure to keep us amused, and his approachable personality will encourage questions to satisfy any lingering curiosity.
I urge you all to attend.
The Australian Opera's production of Wagner's Ring Cycle got under way last year with a season of "Die Walkure", rather shakily and not to everyone's liking, but soon improved and more substantial in its revival early this year. In a few weeks time, "Das Rheingold" will have its premiere and, no doubt, its shortcomings, as this comparatively young Opera company battles to stage one of the hardest works in the repertory. Regardless of the artistic and musical standard set in these productions we have to be grateful that at last a Wagnerian regime has been instituted, and that the general public, although not yet overly enthusiastic, has finally the first hand means to become familiar with the visual presentation of the works. Records, compact discs and even video tapes have spoilt us in their presentation of near perfect performances, and it is hard to accept that stage performances - for many reasons - fall short of our ideals. Even a concert performance, where we supply our own mental imagery, seems more satisfying at times than a theatre presentation. So just as the Australian Opera has taken these grand strides into Wagner's domain and committed itself to a new part of the Ring drama each year, it has recently made it known that there is to be a change in plans, and the next opera "Siegfried" will not take place in 1985. Stunned by this news, and fearful for the fate of the complete cycle, we sought some explanation. It seems that the presentation of the Ring has so strained the artistic and financial resources of the company they have called this moratorium to allow a little breathing space before a fresh onslaught can be made on "Siegfried" and "Gotterdammerung" in 1986 and 1987 respectively. The company is still seriously committed to having the full cycle ready for 1988.
We will not be left without Wagner in 1985 however as "Die Walkure" will once again be revived in Sydney (with Leonie Rysanek) and in Melbourne (with Yvonne Minton) and "Das Rhinegold" will also be aired again for a short winter season. This will be your chance to show your support for the Australian Opera and the heroic work it is doing against great odds.The Federal Government and the Music Board are considering reducing the monetary allocation to the Opera even more, making it one of the least subsidised companies in the world. When faced with this predicament their choice to put on profitable Italian opera, and commercial operetta is understandable. But let us keep our demand for Wagner opera to the fore, so there can be no further shelving of it into the "too hard" basket.
About Membership: Why are you a member of the Wagner Society? How do you expect to benefit from your membership? What contribution are you making to the activities of the Society?
This is some of the information your Committee needs to know in order to keep the Society interesting and viable, and the basis for the questionnaire circulated in the last Newsletter. Replies have been received from barely one quarter of the members - hardly an overwhelming response, but perhaps a predictable one. There always has been a small solid core of active members, ready to participate in each function, to receive the benefit of the presentations, and most importantly, to meet and mix with other members.
The information in the replies has been collated, and the results appear elsewhere in this issue. Your Committee will make the most of the suggestions, applying them to benefit the majority of members. Hopefully, in a year's programme, there will be something to please everyone, but it would be most unusual if we were able to please everyone in everything we did. That there have been disappointments in our efforts over the past few years, we would be the first to acknowledge, but we did appreciate the frankness of those replies which gave explicit details.
The strength of the Society lies in its members, but the Society does not exist for its members alone. It has a responsibility to the community at large. Hence, each member should not have joined just for what he or she can get out of the Wagner Society for the $15.00. Rather, it must be asked what he or she can do to help the Society in its aims and objectives. Attending functions and joining in the activities of the Society is the easiest and most obvious way of showing that you joined for a purpose and that you support the Society's aims of promoting interest and understanding of Richard Wagner to a greater public than just the membership. We cannot expect recognition from the public if we appear divided or - even worse - apathetic within our ranks.
As the fate of the Australian Opera's Ring Cycle is yet to be decided, let us be united in spirit and, for the sake of Richard Wagner, show our strength at all future functions.