President's Reports 2004

January / May / August / November 2004

 

January 2004
Happy New Year, and welcome to our first Newsletter for 2004.

This promises to be an exciting year for Wagner performances in Australia, book-ended as it is by a restudied production of Barrie Kosky's 1996 Flying Dutchman for OA in January and February (a year late for his seven-yearly landfall), and by the Adelaide Ring in November and December.

The 1996 production of The Flying Dutchman was made possible by a bequest from Dr Leonard Hanson, who was president of our Society from its foundation until shortly before his death in 1990, and this restudied production by director Cathy Dadd will have added poignancy for many members because of this connection.

Recent Society Event

On Sunday 16 November 2003, we were fortunate to visit Mr Denis Condon's home and hear, through a technology which is now in the hands of passionate conservators such as Mr Condon, "live" performances by a range of pianists, most of them long dead.

The month before I found myself reflecting, after a particularly fine concert by pianist Barry Douglas in the Angel Place Recital Hall, on the failure of CDs to produce anything like the tone-range and dynamism of concert hall sound in our living rooms. Douglas's concert reminded me that recorded music is often a poor substitute for the sound and experience of a live performance, except where a recorded performance has a historical or personal resonance for us, or is the only choice we have.

As I sat listening to Mr Condon give life again to these pianists on a range of pianos in his music room, I realised that the sound we were hearing was every bit as immediate and "live" as Barry Douglas had been. While unique collections such as this survive, we will always be able to hear "live" pianists from the first part of the last century, through the magic of the piano roll. If only such a mechanism existed for the voice.

On Sunday 7 December, we had our final function of the year - our end-of- year party, preceded by a short video from the American Public Broadcasting Service entitled "Amato: a love affair with opera", about the extraordinary lives of Sally and Tony Amato, and the Amato Opera Company they founded in New York some 56 years ago. Clips from the video and a wealth of material about the Amatos and their company are available from the PBS website, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/amato/index.html Sadly, Sally Amato died shortly after the film was made, but if you're planning a visit to New York this year and you want to catch a performance, you can find details of Tony and the Amato Opera's 2003-04 season at the Amato website, http://www.amato.org/amato0304/season0304.html

The party was a very social event, and at the suggestion of members at our November meeting, name-tags were provided so we all knew who we were. Our thanks go to Barbara Brady, who provided another of her much sought- after cakes for our raffle, to Barbara McNulty who donated the other raffle prizes and provided a cake for eating, to Shirley Robertson who arrayed before us another magnificent afternoon tea, to Sandy and Phil Dudgeon who used all their wiles to sell raffle tickets, and to Juliet Richters, a new member who drew the winning tickets for us. Thanks, also, to Phil Dudgeon and Terence Watson for pouring refreshing libations for us all.

Future functions at the Goethe Institut

Our first function for 2004 will be Sunday 15 February, and will be a "post- mortem" on Opera Australia's production of Der fliegende Hollander - a chance to have your say. We will show extracts from a few other productions for comparison and contrast and to stimulate discussion. If you have a particular production on video or DVD that you would like to comment on, bring that along and tell us why you like it or hate it.

On Sunday 21 March, Antony Ernst will talk on aspects of the Ring as part of our preparation for the Adelaide Ring. A new book by Antony containing articles on each of the Ring operas, which will be published by the Society, will be launched at that meeting. The chapters are significantly revised and rewritten versions of the talks Antony gave to the Society in 1998 before the first Adelaide Ring, with substantial new material.

On Sunday 18 April, Margaret Whitlam will talk about things Wagnerian in her life, and will introduce an act of an opera on DVD or video, which has special meaning for her. Then on Sunday 23 May, Wagner's birthday, we will hold our AGM, followed by a recital by the four Sydney Conservatorium opera students who we have sponsored in German language courses at the Goethe Institut this year - Erin O'Connor, Emily Garth, Rebecca Hilder and Jessica Pratt, accompanied by Sharolyn Kimmorley. They will then be our guests at a catered birthday celebration, which will take the place of the annual luncheon we have enjoyed at The Women's Club over the past few years.

The Neidhardt Ring

Last September I went to a seminar held in Adelaide to introduce the State Opera of South Australia's 2004 Ring. There was a wealth of material from singers, musicians and experts on all aspects of the Ring, but my real interest was in the music and words of Asher Fisch, the Ring's conductor, and of director Elke Neidhardt and her creative team - set designer Michael Scott- Mitchell, lighting and associate designer Nick Schlieper, and costume designer Stephen Curtis.

This quintet will determine, almost completely, the look, feel, sound and taste of this Ring. While their time in the seminar programme was immensely entertaining. Ms Neidhardt admitted that she had something of a reputation for not getting along with conductors, and modestly characterised her relationship with Asher Fisch so far - 15 months before opening night - as being like an amicable courtship. We saw slides of sets and costumes, but the intricate curtains of water and fire whose assembly and dismantling have presumably caused the performances of Rheingold to be rescheduled were only hinted at. Nature will be celebrated realistically, but not traditionally. Ms Neidhardt playfully suggested that if we thought about the kind of place the daughters of the chief of the gods would hang out, we could easily guess her setting for one of the acts of Walkure. And to appease traditionalists (or perhaps to antagonise them) Ms Neidhardt has promised a horned Walkure helmet - just one.

I have no doubt that the driving force behind this production is the iron-willed Ms Neidhardt, whose conception is unlikely to be readily negotiable. Just as Rings at Bayreuth are named after their producers - Chéreau, Hall, Kupfer, Flimm - this will be the Neidhardt Ring.

After the seminar, I saw a trio of figures jauntily weaving through the traffic on North Terrace and Mr Michael Scott-Mitchell, Ms Neidhardt and Mr Nick Schlieper (left to right below), looking like a very relieved Freia in the company of Fafner and Fasolt.

Our 25th Anniversary

In 2005 we will celebrate our 25th year, and the 100th edition of our Newsletter. We would like, if possible, to have a complete list of all our members during this period, but some of our early records have been lost. If any of you have membership lists or other details, or know of anyone who has, especially from the early years of the Society, we would be delighted to be able to copy them to complete our records and to acknowledge the sources.

Membership renewals

Finally, a reminder for those who have not renewed your membership for 2004. Please complete the form at the back of Issue 94 of this Newsletter and post it, with your cheque, to the Society; otherwise, a reminder notice will be posted out.

My best wishes to you all.

Roger Cruickshank
13 January 2004

 

May 2004
Your committee

I'm pleased to advise that Mary Haswell is our new Secretary. We have been without a secretary since Barbara McNulty resigned from the position at the July 2003 AGM, and I know you will join with me in welcoming Mrs Haswell to the committee, and in thanking her for making her time and energy available for our Society. Elsina Rasink, who has been our treasurer for the past 3 years, will be resigning at the May AGM. If you have a knowledge of MYOB (or similar software) and can spare a few hours each month to keep our financial records uptodate and attend our meetings and functions, please contact me or any other member of the committee.

Recent Society Events

On Sunday 15 February, we held a "post mortem" discussion on the Opera Australia production of The Flying Dutchman. In for the Kosky production were used.

There was general agreement at the meeting on the glories of the performance - Lisa Gasteen's Senta (although her death by being mysteriously crushed in the stage machinery which raised and lowered the Dutchman's vessel prompted one member of the audience to shout out "Where is Senta?", and seemed more appropriate to last year's production of Salome where Ms Gasteen sang the title role), Jay Hunter Morris's Erik, and the male chorus of OA.

Overall, the meeting was not unreservedly enthusiastic about the new Sydney production, for two main reasons. First, many saw the production itself as a dumbing down of Mr Kosky's far more challenging and controversial interpretation in 1996. Second, there were health and vocal problems with other members of the cast. Arend Baumann was replaced by Daniel Sumegi as Daland before the first performance, and Jonathan Summers was replaced as the Dutchman by Warwick Fyfe after four performances. Opinions were divided on Warwick Fyfe's performance, which some felt was more wooden than the producer required.

For me, Summers' Amfortas was one of the highlights of the production of Parsifal in Adelaide in 2001, and I was disappointed that he was unable to repeat this triumph as the Dutchman. I am a sort of Warwick Fyfe groupie, and make a point of trying to see at least one performance of everything he sings with OA (although I failed to catch his Papageno, as the performance I booked was cancelled because of fumes in the pit.) At the time he took over the role of the Dutchman, Mr Fyfe was also singing the elder Germont in Traviata and Papageno, and at one point sang these 3 roles over 4 nights, which would tax the vocal resources of a saint. Having to sing his big solo number - the recitative and aria / monologue "Die Frist ist um" - without the chance to warm up on stage didn't help either. I'm sure that if Mr Fyfe can conquer his nervousness, we will see and hear an artist who will make us all sit up and take notice.

Last weekend (8/9 May) I went to Melbourne to see the final Dutchman performance there. First, it had a completely different cast - Elizabeth Whitehouse (Senta), John Wegner (Dutchman), Arend Baumann (Daland) and the amazingly named and physically impressive Thomas Studebaker as Erik. And, more importantly, the production was significantly altered from the Sydney one - Ms Dadd had listened to her critics.

We started with the same silly swirling mists and illuminated Dutchman's head during the overture, at the end of which - because this was the so-called Paris Version - the jolly burghers of Melbourne clapped their little hearts out. The larger space available on the Arts Centre stage meant that there were a few minor adjustments in the first scenes, but the first significant change came when John Wegner arrived with Daland to meet Senta for the first time. Here was a Dutchman with a swagger and real sexual magnetism, someone Senta could fall in love with for himself and not just because of her fixation with his portrait. The lovers' duet was no longer a static affair but a rapturous encounter full of movement. Bewilderingly, at two crucial moments, Whitehouse's voice disappeared altogether, the only vocal blemishes in a searing encounter which put memories of the Sydney performances and production far behind. Even George Albrecht, whose conducting in Sydney had been somewhat pedestrian, seemed to revel in the wonderful music- making on-stage.

Ms Dadd's biggest change was in the final scene. Eric does not being a gun onstage, allowing Senta to fend off her father and friends to disappear under the stage machinery as in Sydney. Instead, when the Dutchman climbs the stairs into the belly of his ship, Senta is at first restrained by her friends, but then breaking free and rushing after him, she is encased in the arms of the overwhelming Erik, who kills her and lowers her lifeless body tenderly to the stage. The scene is now in darkness, except for Mary, who is sitting alone on the packing cases at the left front of the stage, and picks up Senta's book and starts leafing it.

Then, as Mary too fades into darkness, the Dutchman is seen on the deck of his boat, holding Senta's lifeless body in his arms. Senta is his angel, and he is redeemed by her true love - and so is Ms Dadd's production. What Melbourne saw was a consistent, literal interpretation which, whatever your reaction to it, was true to itself and to its type. Given the 8 years that passed between the Kosky and Dadd productions in Sydney, and the mediocre paying audiences the Dutchman attracted in Sydney, we may not see the "Melbourne Version" here. But if it is ever revived in Sydney, it is well worth a second look.

I have one final quibble about something vile in both the Kosky and Dadd productions. In the musically astonishing "dueling matelots" scene, the Norwegian Chorus is on stage, frightened, singing their four-square C-major shanty, and the Dutchman's crew is "¦. is nowhere. Instead, they were pre- recorded (by the Norwegians!) and are coming to us in an unearthly manner over the loud speakers, along with the special effects and the wind noise! Live opera doesn't come via pre-recorded performances over loud speakers! I assume that this is done for economic reasons, so that OA doesn't have to pay for a second male chorus to sit around all night just to sing for a few minutes at the end of the opera, but it is a sad state of affairs for opera performance in any country when local productions are forced to use pre- recorded singers, and live singers become a luxury that only overseas companies supported by heavy government subsidies can afford. Not happy, Barry and Cathy!

I'm pleased to report that Cathy Dadd has been nominated by Opera Foundation Australia as the 2004 Bayreuth Scholar. We congratulate Ms Dadd on this achievement and, if her nomination is confirmed by the German government, we will as usual provide the return airfare to Europe.

On Sunday 21 March, Robert Gay spoke on Berlioz and Wagner. Mr Gay regularly lectures on music in Sydney and throughout Australia, and had just completed a series of eight lectures for the University of Sydney's Continuing Education programme, entitled "Wagner and the music of his time", in which he had explored the influences of Wagner's contemporaries on his musical development. Mr Gay may have ruffled a few feathers by suggesting that Wagner borrowed material from Berlioz, but he provided musical examples to illustrate his point. Mr Gay plans a series of six advanced lectures as part of the Continuing Education programme starting in October, which will function as an introduction to the Neidhardt Ring which starts in Adelaide in November, and we'll let you know how to apply when this series is formally announced.

On Sunday 18 April, Margaret Whitlam talked about moments musical and Wagnerian that have permeated her distinguished life. This was then followed (after our usual battle with technology) by a screening of one of Mrs Whitlam's favourite "chunks", the love duet from Act 2 of Tristan and Isolde. Although we chose a DVD which showed a romantic and traditional interpretation of the two lovers, it was generally remarked that, putting aside the sumptuous sounds of their singing, both were simply too large to allow anyone to suspend their disbelief and imagine for a moment that any form of passion or union was possible.

I'm sorry to report that, after 10 years of preparing and serving our afternoon teas at each function, Shirley Robertson retired at our April meeting. Unless someone else volunteers to take over organising our refreshments, I regret that we will not be able to maintain the high the Shirley has provided for all these years. Anyone who is interested in taking over these functions, with support from committee members, should contact me or any other member of the committee.

Forthcoming Events

On Saturday 22 May, Wagner's birthday, we will hold our AGM, followed by a recital by the four Sydney Conservatorium opera students whom we have sponsored in German language courses at the Goethe Institut this year - Erin O'Connor, Emily Garth, Rebecca Hilder and Jessica Pratt, accompanied by Sharolyn Kimmorley, the Bayreuth Scholar for 2003. They will then be our guests at a catered afternoon tea to celebrate Wagner's birthday, which will take the place of the annual luncheon we have enjoyed at The Women's Club over the past few years. A formal notice of AGM was posted out with proxy and nomination forms, which I hope that all members have received. The important thing to remember is that this is being held on a Saturday, which is not a traditional day for our meetings.

On Sunday 18 July, after a number of false starts for which I apologise, we will launch Doctor Antony Ernst's book on the Ring entitled "The Once and Future Ring", which the Society is publishing. A few weeks ago Antony was awarded his Doctorate for a thesis on Janacek, and we congratulate him on his success. The book contains sections on each of the Ring operas, and is loosely based on a series of talks Antony gave to the Society in 1998 before the first Adelaide Ring, which have been significantly revised and rewritten with substantial new material.

As well as launching his book (which will cost $25 and which I'm sure Antony will be delighted to autograph) Dr Ernst will give a talk on another an aspect of the Ring, as part of our preparation for the Neidhardt Ring in Adelaide in November.

Our 25th Anniversary

In our last Newsletter, I mentioned that in 2005 we will celebrate the Society's 25th year and the 100th edition of our Newsletter, and I asked whether anyone had copies of old membership lists or other details of our membership history, or know of anyone who had records from the early years of the Society, so that we could publish a complete list of our members from 1980 onwards. Alas, no-one has responded. If you can think of any way that we can reconstruct our past membership, please call me.

A footnote on Wagner performances

2004 is book-ended by two Australian Wagner performances, The Flying Dutchman at the start of the year, and the Neidhardt Ring at the end. Now that the Dutchman (in both its versions) is behind us, we have only 6 months to prepare before the second Adelaide Ring is unveiled. Whatever its fate, this second Adelaide Ring will almost certainly be the last we will see for at least the next six years, and we owe it to the performers and the artistic team, and to ourselves, to make sure that we are as prepared as we can be for this magnificent experience.

Roger Cruickshank
10 May 2004

 

August 2004
Your committee

I'm pleased to advise that Michael Moore is our new Treasurer, in succession to Elle Rasink, who resigned at our May AGM. I know you will join me in welcoming Mr Moore to the committee and in thanking him for making his time and experience available for us. With Mary Haswell, whom we welcomed as our new Secretary in the previous Newsletter, we now have a full committee.

Recent Society Events

On Saturday 22 May, Wagner's birthday, we held our AGM, followed by a recital by the four Sydney Conservatorium opera students whom we sponsored in German language courses at the Goethe Institut this year - Erin O'Connor, Emily Garth, Rebecca Hilder and Jessica Pratt, accompanied by Sharolyn Kimmorley, the 2003 Bayreuth Scholar. This recital of German operatic music and lieder was an outstanding success, and it gave members the opportunity to hear the quality and depth of talent of these young students from the Conservatorium, some of whom we hope will go on to become the next generation of young stars of opera in Australia, and perhaps internationally.

These singers and Sharolyn then joined us as our guests at afternoon tea, and led us in singing "alles Gute zum Geburtstag" to our birthday boy. The winners of our afternoon raffle were Leona Geeves, who took the first prize of two premium tickets to a winter season performance by Opera Australia (and chose Rosenkavalier), Alister Wong who won two A-reserve tickets (and chose the Barber of Seville), and Julian Block, who won a Ring Cycle CD set featuring John Wegner as Wotan (kindly donated by Judy and Joseph Ferfoglia.)

I'm delighted to report that we will be making further German language scholarships available to students from the Conservatorium next year, and that we made a donation of $2,000 to Jessica Pratt, who left in early July to take up a number of scholarships in Israel and Italy from which she will return in March next year. We look forward to hearing these scholarship students, and Jessica, singing for us next year.

On Sunday 18 July, Dr Antony Ernst gave a talk on Ring productions which is reviewed elsewhere in this Newsletter [p. 5]. Our false starts in the printing of Antony's book on the Ring entitled "The Once and Future Ring" have continued, with the launch which we had advertised not taking place. However, the delays have now come to an end and the book should be appearing soon - certainly in time for our September 19 meeting.

Forthcoming Events

Ring Cycle preparation package: 0n Sunday 19 September and Sunday 17 October the Society will be offering members a range of views on how to prepare for the Ring. In September, Jim Leigh has kindly offered to present

the film of the Making of the [Solti] Ring Cycle and to offer advice, based on years of Bayreuth attendance (among other Ring performances), on the best way to prepare yourself for the artistic marathon. At the October function, Dr Dennis Mather, Dr Terence Watson and I will be covering a variety of aspects of the Ring, including the music (by Dennis Mather).

On Sunday 7 November, we will hold our last function of the year, just two days before the first cycle of the Neidhardt Ring starts in Adelaide. PLEASE NOTE - the date has changed because a number of members have indicated that they will be attending the Victorian Wagner Society's seminar on 13-14 November and others will be setting off to drive to Adelaide

This last meeting is always a light-hearted affair, and we will have a Members' Market so that you can downsize your Wagner CD collection or recycle those unwanted presents of Wagner paraphernalia you have collected over the years - and know that everything is going to good homes. [See p. 10 for more details] We will also show a DVD entitled "Sing Faster! The Stagehand's Ring Cycle", which in 55 minutes tells the story of a production of the Ring solely from the viewpoint of the San Francisco Opera's union stagehands.

Bayreuth

Ten members have obtained tickets to this year's Bayreuth Festival through our Society: Armand Bartos, Barbara de Rome, Jennifer Ferns, Pauline Holgerson, Renate and Herman Junker, Naomi Kaldor, Barbara McNulty, and Jeffrey Smart and Ermes de Zan. They will be attending the third Ring cycle, which will end the era of Jurgen Flimm's Ring, although what will replace it 2006 is anyone's guess, as you will read in this Newsletter.

Bayreuth Costume

Nearly 2 years ago (in Issue 90 of this Newsletter, December 2002) I reported that Mr Richard King, a former president of the Society and an honorary life member, found something remarkable when he was cleaning out his linen cupboard - a costume from Bayreuth! Herr Reinhard Heinrich, who was costume designer for the 1998 bi-centenary production of Meistersinger (the German government's birthday gift to Australia) brought with him a sailor's costume - trousers, jacket and sailor's cap - from the 1978 Kupfer production of the Flying Dutchman at Bayreuth, for which Hr Heinrich was also costume designer. Colin Jones, who was at the time a member of our committee, took the costume around auction houses to have it appraised, and continued to show it to anyone was interested, without getting an enthusiastic offers. A few months ago, the costume sold at auction for $60. As Mr Jones commented ruefully after the hours of effort he had put into selling the costume, had he known that it would go so cheaply, he would have kept it and made a donation to the Society! Thank you Colin for your hard work in trying to get us a better price for this item.

Members Abroad

Mr Paul Curran, a longstanding member of our Society, will direct a season of Tannhauser for La Scala in February 2005. Some years ago Mr Curran gave a talk at a seminar we held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, discussing opera production, particularly in St Petersberg when he worked at the Mariinsky Theatre. We congratulate Mr Curran on his appointment - the first time, as far as we know, any member of our Society has directed a Wagner opera! La Padania announced this with the words ""¦ dai nomi importanti come Paul Curran che curerà  la regia del "Tannhauser" di Richard Wagner, direttore Jeffrey Tate (interpreti Franz Josef Selig, Robert Gambill e Adrianne Pieczonka a febbraio 2005)." An important name indeed.

Roger Cruickshank
24 July 2004

 

November 2004
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

2005 sees our 25th 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), Tannhauser (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