President's Reports 2005

March / May / September / December 2005

 

March 2005
Neidhardt Ring

"At Adelaide we heard three splendid young Australians, Stuart Skelton and Deborah Riedel as the incestuous twins, Siegmund and Sieglinde, and Lisa Gasteen as Brunnhilde and we'll be reminiscing about her to our grandchildren, just as my generation grew up envying those who heard Birgit Nilsson or Kirsten Flagstad." That's how Paul Levy, writing for The Times of London, described Lisa Gasteen's triumphant Brunnhilde in the Neidhardt Ring, and I think that he got it right.

Her triumph stands shoulder-to-shoulder with many others. The Ring in Adelaide was first and foremost a triumph for Stephen Phillips and the team at the State Opera of South Australia, who conceived the idea in the afterglow of the 1998 Strosser Ring with Jeffrey Tate, and brought it to glorious life in the face of many obstacles, the consequences of which may yet impact on the future of SOSA itself.

It was overwhelmingly a welcome triumph for Elke Neidhardt and her creative team. She told Wagner's story in a way that was just right for our current Australian context, where Ring cycles are uncommon and audiences are not all longing to be challenged in the way that many of their northern hemisphere counterparts are. This was done with a mixture of great set pieces - the water, the two great truck scenes of Wotan's Office and the WunderBar, the giant ring and the ring of fire, Fafner's mechanical arm on steroids - and of magical moments of emptinesses with space and light - the end of Act 1 of Die Walkure, the forest of balloons in Siegfried, and many more. Parochialism aside, this Neidhardt Ring was probably the best new Ring anywhere in 2004, and certainly better than many restaged Rings which were tarted up and put on around the world last year to cash in on the sudden thirst for staged cycles.

Ms Neidhardt would not have been true to type had she not been irreverent and vulgar on occasion, and she was. One measure of how much you loved or hated the production would be the number of such moments for you. Not every moment of this Ring production was one of unalloyed joy for every member of the audience, and for some of those seeking a more traditional telling of the story with whom I spoke, alas, every moment was a fresh hell. I think that Ms Neidhardt would agree that she is now perhaps too old to be an enfant terrible, but if there is an award for the eminence gris terrible, it belongs to her. I'm sure the rumours that the Vassals referred to her as "Mrs Hitler" are true, but Vassals are like that these days.

It was a triumph for the singers and chorus, many of whom may not have experienced such prolonged and enthusiastic ovations before. Not far behind Lisa Gasteen's stellar Brunnhilde stands the crowd favourite of John Wegner, who revelled in the physicality of his role, and his new-found hair. Not all singers were of the same standard and quality - some were disappointing, and others were a revelation - but this is not the place to name names.

Can I indulge myself by describing one moment when the direction and the singers came together in an unexpected revelation for me? At the end of Act 1 of Gotterdammerung, Siegfried in the guise of Gunther penetrates the magic fire, seizes the Ring from Brunnhilde, and forces himself on her. (That's a euphemism.) This scene has never worked for me, in productions or on video. Neidhardt's Siegfried, in his tarnhelm (an S&M leather hood probably supplied by one of the sex shops of Hindley Street) simply stood squatly before Brunnhilde, who sang in terror "Stammst du von Menschen? Kommst du von Hellas?" ("Are you mortal? Have you come from hell?) and the hollow defeated terrified sound with which Lisa Gasteen invested these words won me over to her more than all the other greater moments of her role. At this moment, for me the production and artistry synthetised in the way that only Wagner's music-dramas can. From an almost casual event, a revelation.

It was also a triumph for the Richard Wagner Society of South Australia, which organised three extremely interesting Pause Days with lectures and recitals Wagnerian and related.

It was a triumph of sorts for the happy burghers of Adelaide, who may have been more interested at the time in the cricket and allowed the moment to pass them by. Sadly, it was not a triumph for Adelaide 's sellers of books, CDs and DVDs, who left over 5,000 visiting Wagnerites with nothing to charge on their VISA cards as they wandered the streets forlornly searching through second-hand bookshops for something to sate their aroused shopping genes.

It was also a triumph of judgement for those who at various stages over the past few years have held the financial purse-strings and could have ended this Ring before it was born. This story of the mandarins of the arts funding world, along with representatives of the state government of South Australia, may never be heard other than by rumour, but their decisions to continue funding the project, for whatever reasons they were made, were a vital precursor to this glorious occasion. During the euphoria of the Ring there were rumours about the production being sold overseas to help offset the huge debt that it had created, but nothing more has been reported in the press. It may be some time before we hear cries of "Nach Adelaide!" again.

If you want to see the Neidhardt Ring revived anytime soon, for example, in 4 years time (i.e., 2009), write to Hon Michael Rann, Premier of South Australia and Minister for the Arts, Parliament House, North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000 and tell him so. The state government will need to provide the initial funding, even if the production ultimately covers all its costs, and without this kick-start nothing will happen.

There was some disappointment that no DVD was to be made of the production. Instead a CD will be available using a remarkable new technology and at a remarkable price, and I'm waiting for that to hit the shops. However, the desire for a visual memento on DVD proves the impact that this production had on those who saw it.

There have been many reviews with many superlatives, and as I'm trying to give them up (superlatives, that is) I won't try to compete with them. Despite this outpouring of critical comment, I have yet to read a review which discusses the use of gas in Nebelheim, or the prisoners hooded Abu Grahib style being hunted in Act 3 of Gotterdammerung, and I hope that these and other symbols in the production aren't overlooked in the discussion.

One theme which many reviews have picked up - a sporting one - is that this production has "lifted the bar" for opera production generally in Australia . It has shown a standard of artistic excellence and intelligence by which all opera future productions will be judged. While the pocket-handkerchief stage in the Opera Theatre (the small venue in the so-called "Opera House" where operas are staged in miniature) cannot compete with the scale of the Adelaide Festival Hall stage, it must compete with the intelligent production values and use of light and space which was a hallmark of the Neidhardt Ring. Productions like the 2004 "Norma" should never see the light of day again.

And now for the rest of the news

This is our first Newsletter for 2005, which sees our Society's 25th anniversary and the 100th issue of this Newsletter.

Our first meeting for 2005 will be on Sunday 20 February at the new time of 2pm. Those of you who are addicted to the earlier starting time of 1pm can come early and help with the arrangements of chairs, nametags, and tables for afternoon tea.

Of course a 2pm start means that we will no longer be having afternoons where complete operas are shown on DVD or video. Instead, where they occur, audio-visual reproductions will be in the context of scheduled talks and recitals. I am currently looking at a number of short videos (generally around 1 hour) relating to Wagner productions (such as Tony Palmer's production of Parsifal with Placido Domingo) which we can show at the end-of-year function, were such short videos have become something of a tradition.

In addition, please pencil in your diaries that, on Sunday 31 July or Sunday 7 August, we hope to host an interview and recital with a special guest artist. Initial discussions are taking place thought Miriam Gordon-Stewart, and we're hopeful of making a definite announcement about this unique opportunity by the AGM in May. If everything works out, this will be a truly wonderful way to celebrate 25 years.

Alas, the only Wagner so far scheduled for performance in Australia in 2005 is a concert performance of Tristan und Isolde in Brisbane on Saturday 30 July, with Lisa Gasteen in the role of Isolde.

Roger Cruickshank
25 January 2005

 

June 2005
Welcome to the hundredth issue of our Newsletter in this, our 25th anniversary year.

This issue has been compiled over many months by our editor, Terence Watson, and I know that you will join me in congratulating him on bringing together such an interesting Newsletter from so many distant sources.

On behalf of the present Committee, I want to thank all of you, our current and past members, committee members and officeholders, for your contribution to the Society. Without your generous help and membership, we might not be here to celebrate this anniversary, and we would not have been able to provide the funding and scholarships for artists and productions that has been possible over the past 25 years, in line with our aim of promoting Wagner's music.

Anniversaries are always personal affairs, and often they are tinged with sadness. They provide each of us with an opportunity to look forward, but they also afford a moment when we can look back and reflect on the past, on the opera performances and concerts we have attended, and on the friendships we have made, some of which are part of the Society's history too.

Newer members may wonder what the fuss is about, but as a relatively young Society, we are fortunate in having as current members many who formed or joined the Society in those early days. They provide us with a living history of things Wagnerian, both internationally and here in Australia. Many of them had become Wagnerites long before the Society was formed, and knew each other from their visits to Bayreuth and other festivals, and from their participation in the rich musical life of Australia. They were "Wagner Tragics" long before that awful term was coined!

When these early members look back on the past 25 years of the Society's history, they will recall some friends who are no longer with us, and others whose health no longer allows them to participate as actively in the life of this city as they used to do.

The Society and its members have been lucky that the last 25 years or more have been such a rich period for things Wagnerian in Australia. We have seen performances of all 10 works in the Wagner canon from Opera Australia, the State Opera of South Australia, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, among others.

In 1984, Opera Australia premiered Andrew Sinclair's production of Das Rheingold, the first step in a planned Ring cycle, which faltered after DieWalküre, although this work was restaged in 1989 in a production revised by Andrew Sharp.

In 1987, Opera Australia premiered the Neidhardt Lohengrin under Stuart Challender, which was revived in 1990 under Carlo Felice Cillario with a young Lisa Gasteen as Elsa; in 1988 it staged the acclaimed bi-centennial Die Meistersinger, revived under Simone Young in 2003; in 1990 with the SSO under Stuart Challender, it staged Neil Armfield's Tristan und Isolde in the Concert Hall of the Opera House, where it was revived in 1993 under Carlo Felice Cillario; in 1996 it stage Barry Kosky's Fliegende Hollander; in 1998 the Neidhardt Tannhauser, with a creative team including Michael Scott-Mitchell and Nick Schlieper; in 2001 Andrew Sinclair's Lohengrin; and in 2004, Cathy Dadd's Hollander.

A staged performance of Parsifal has eluded Sydney audiences, but Brisbane's 1995 Biennial International Music Festival included a concert performance, and in 2001 the State Opera of South Australia premiered Elke Neidhardt's Parsifal, the first staging of this work in Australia. Brisbane's Biennial International Music Festival continues its concert performances of Wagner with Tristan und Isolde in July 2005, with a much more internationally-recognised Lisa Gasteen as Isolde.

The SSO under Edo de Waart gave concert performances of each of the Ring works over a four year period, starting with Das Rheingold in 1997 and culminating with Gotterdammerung in 2000 as the centrepiece of the SSO's contribution to the Olympic Arts Festival.

In 1998 and in 2004, the State Opera of South Australia gave Australia and the world two productions of the Ring. In 1998, Bill Gillespie brought the Chatelet's Strosser production and gave us the first fully-staged Ring in Australia in almost a century. In 2004, Elke Neidhardt gave us the first "Australian" Ring to overwhelming critical acclaim, although those who yearn for a more traditional production with helmets and horses would have wished that Ms Neidhardt had been an American and not a European.

There have been other outstanding concert performances of the Ring operas, among them the Perth Arts Festival's multi-media concert performances of Gotterdammerung in 2003.

I have catalogued some of the Wagner performances in Australia over the last 25 years because it forms a prism through which the activities of our Society can be recalled, since we provided financial sponsorship for many of these and other Wagner-related events.

There are some who believe that these 25 years may come to be seen in retrospect as a sort of golden age of Australian Wagner production, the like of which we may not see for some time.

While I think that it's too early to say whether the changes in the musical directorships of both the SSO and Opera Australia will have an impact on Wagner performances, there is at least one bright light in our coming calendars. Europe will soon be awash with festivals and commemorations for the 200th anniversaries of the births of some of the artistic giants of the 19th century. In 2011 we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Franz Liszt, and in 2013 the 200th anniversary of the births of Giuseppi Verdi and Richard Wagner.

While these events will trigger an avalanche of festivals and marketing in the recorded and live music industries overseas, I believe that they will also produce more than a trickle-down effect locally as well.

This year there are a number of events at which we will celebrate our anniversary. On 22 May, Wagner's Birthday, there is a party at the Goethe Institut following our AGM and a recital by students from the Conservatorium of Music.

On 7 August, thanks to Miriam Gordon, acclaimed dramatic soprano Deborah Polaski will talk about her career and recent productions and recordings. Many of you will remember Ms Polaski's performance in the title role of Electra at the Capitol Theatre under Simone Young in 2000, her Bayreuth performances, notably as Brunnhilde in the Kupfer Ring from 1988, and will be familiar with her more recent performances and recordings, such as the Tristan und Isolde highlights with Bertrand de Billy and the RSO Vienna released this year (Oehms Classic, OC602).

And as usual we will celebrate the year's ending with a party on December 11.

I hope that many of you can join us at these events, and at the Society's other functions during the year. Bonne Anniversaire.

Roger Cruickshank
1 May 2005

 

September 2005
Let me begin by congratulating our Newsletter editor, Terence Watson, on the superb results achieved in our last two newsletters - issue 99, which dealt with the 2004 Neidhardt Ring in Adelaide, and issue 100, which celebrated the Society's 25th anniversary - both in glorious colour. This issue, 101, will be back to black and white, which is somehow appropriate as we survey the slim prospect of Wagner performances in Australia over the coming year.

Because of these two special issues of the Newsletter, I haven't had the opportunity to comment on the functions we've held so far this year, and to thank our contributors and speakers.

First, there is a review in this issue of a wonderful special event which was held on Sunday 7 August, at which Deborah Polaski was interviewed by Miriam Gordon- Stewart. This was accompanied by two short extracts from DVDs of Ms Polaski's performance as Brunnhilde in the Kupfer Ring produced in Barcelona last year and conducted by Bertrand de Billy, which Ms Polaski was able to watch for the first time, with some trepidation.

I'd like to thank Miriam for her kindness in organising this interview for us. The Society has helped Miriam with some of the costs of her recent vocal studies in Europe, and she suggested that as Ms Polaski was coming to Australia for a holiday, she would arrange this interview as a "thank you" to the Society for its assistance. I thought I had become somewhat cynical in my dotage, but I was charmed and just a little overwhelmed by The Diva, as I'm sure many of you who attended were.

On Saturday 30 July, there was a single sold-out concert performance of Tristan und Isolde in Brisbane as part of the 2005 Queensland Music Festival. It seemed that half of the Society, and may other Wagnerians from across Australia, had come to witness what may sadly have been Lisa Gasteen's farewell to Australia, as she sets her sights on an international career from her new home in Europe. Some who had found fault with her Adelaide Brunnhilde told me afterwards that her rock-steady Isolde sounded as if it had been written for her voice. It is a tragedy that this breathtaking performance was not broadcast or recorded, and can only survive in the memories of those who attended. The other soloists - the Tristan of John Treleaven, who was Ms Polaski's Siegfried in the DVDs of the De Billy/Kupfer Ring, Bruce Martin's King Marke, Bernadette Cullen's Brangäne, David Wakeham's Kurwenal - were astoundingly good, as was The Australian Youth Orchestra under Richard Mills. These amazing artists produced a performance of international quality which passed without much notice apart from the usual devotees, and was all but ignored by the ABC and the arts press. The new benchmark for opera performance in Australia, created last year by the Neidhardt Ring, was matched by this superb concert performance.

Our function on July 17 was a talk entitled "Wagner and Film" by Doctor Roger Hillman, which sadly I wasn't able to attend, although I understand that Dr Hillman's film extracts and talk were very thought-provoking.

During the month of July, there was an exhibition of photographs by Michael Scott-Mitchell the set designer for the Neidhardt Ring in Adelaide, which was sponsored by the Goethe-Institut Sydney. These photos were taken during the final dress rehearsal for the Ring, and were on display in the Exhibition Hall at the Opera House. A number of Society members acted as volunteers during the exhibition at which a "highlights" CD with extracts recorded at the Neidhardt Ring was played. Apparently this CD, or the first of the operas from that production, is due to be released commercially early in 2006.

Our May function, on Wagner's birthday, began with our 2005 AGM, and was followed by a recital by Kerry Nicholson and Amy Radford, students from the Conservatorium of Music who were recipients of our German Language Scholarships, accompanied by Sharolyn Kimmorley, and then by our annual Birthday Party for Richard Wagner. Sharolyn also played a rarely-performed piece of piano music by Wagner which Asher Fisch had played in Adelaide during the Neidhardt Ring, and which Sharolyn had been lucky enough to find in the Elder School of Music. Our normally placid AGM was enlivened by a discussion on the balloting of Bayreuth tickets, and the Committee will research the options available and make a recommendation to the 2006 AGM. The birthday party included the singing of "Happy Birthday" to Herr Wagner, which I now realise makes some members feel uncomfortable.

Our April function was a fascinating illustrated talk by Alan Whelan on Symbols in Parsifal. Alan has a frightening knowledge of things Wagnerian and of the history of the Wagner family and of Wagner performances. He is a regular contributor to the news-group Humanities.Music.Composers.Wagner. under an impenetrable pseudonym, and is writing a book on Wagner. Alan's scheduled talk in November entitled "Perception and Reception of Wagner in the Nazi period" has drawn some international interest, with requests for copies of the talk received before the talk has been given.

At our March function, Jane Mathews, whom we congratulate on receiving an A.O. for services to music (among other things), reprised the talk she gave in Adelaide during the Neidhardt Ring on Women in the Ring.

We hope to be able to publish Jane's talk in a future issue of the Newsletter. Jessica Pratt then gave a recital accompanied by Sharolyn Kimmorley, after which she was interviewed by Antony Ernst, who had been in Rome with Jessica. Antony has taken up an appointment as the Auckland Philharmonia's new Manager of Artistic Planning, and we wish him well in the challenging arts environment of Noise Island.

Our February function was a lively discussion about the Neidhardt Ring. Billed as a "post mortem", it was retitled a Celebration when it was realised the patient was very much alive and fondly remembered by those who had attended. There were members for and against almost every aspect of the performance, although Gutrune's leg brace seemed to have few supporters.

Looking ahead, our September meeting will be a panel discussion on this year's non-Ring operas at Bayreuth, led by some of those members who will be attending, including Jane Mathews and Terence Watson; in October, composer Nigel Butterly will speak on Liszt and Wagner; in November, as I mentioned earlier, Alan Whelan will talk on "Perception and Reception of Wagner in the Nazi period"; and in December we will celebrate the end of our 25th anniversary year with a party on December 11. Don't forget to bring a plate. I hope that many of you will be able to join us at these events.

The recently-released Opera Australia 2006 programme includes no Wagner, and to date the only news is of two staged performances of Parsifal in Wellington on 17 and 19 March, which are described elsewhere in this Newsletter.

After such marvels as the Ring and Tristan, it looks like slim pickings indeed.

Roger Cruickshank
16 August 2005

 

December 2005
Wagner performances in 2006

I ended my letter in the last Newsletter on a rather bleak note, lamenting that Opera Australia's 50th anniversary programme for 2006 included no Wagner, and that Sydney concert goers in 2006 could expect slim pickings indeed when it came to Wagner performances.

I am therefore delighted to be able to report that the pickings are not as slim as I thought, and that there are some Wagner performances in Sydney next year. The Australian Chamber Orchestra celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2006, and they will include the Siegfried Idyll in a series of concerts billed as "The Giants". In Sydney, this concert is on 9 and 12 September in Angel Place and on 10 September at the Opera House, and also in Canberra and Wollongong, Adelaide and Melbourne.

In addition, although not exactly music by Wagner, the SSO is featuring a concert entitled "The Ring - An Orchestral Adventure". According to the programme, as well as Mozart's Piano Concerto number 15, we will hear the highlights from the Ring, woven into "a seamless orchestral adventure" by one Henk de Vlieger "lasting a little over an hour", and conducted by Edo de Waart. Wagner without words, edited by Mr de Vlieger, will probably be to Wagner as instant is to coffee, or Bell to Shakespeare. Naturally, I've already booked.

It is not to Sydney that we must look in 2006 for Wagner works performed whole, but east to Wellington and west to Perth . In our last Newsletter we mentioned that there will be two "semi-staged" performances of Parsifal in Wellington on 17 and 19 March 2006, with an all New Zealand cast, including Sir Donald McIntyre in the role of Gurnemanz and Margaret Medlyn as Kundry. If Ms Medlyn can bring off a performance that is anything like her Kundry in Adelaide in 2001, you will hear something truly superb.

These performances are part of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's Wellington subscription season for 2006, and preferential bookings for NZSO subscribers have been open for some time. Seats are now on sale to the public, and although we looked at organising a small invading theatre party to attend one of the performances, this has not turned out to be feasible. It's therefore a case of every member for her- or him-self, and you should contact the New Zealand International Arts Festival on 0011 64 4 473 0149.

But I think that the jewel of 2006 will be found in Perth, where the West Australian Opera as part of its 2006 season is staging three performances of Neil Armfield's production of Tristan und Isolde, conducted by Richard Mills, on November 4, 8 and 11, 2006. The cast is Isolde, Susan Bullock; Tristan, Alan Woodrow; Brangane, Bernadette Cullen; Kurwenal, David Wakeham; King Marke, Bruce Martin and Melot, Barry Ryan.

From the advertising, this looks like the Opera Australia production that was staged in Melbourne in October 2001, with Simone Young conducting. It starred Lisa Gasteen (Isolde) and Horst Hoffman (Tristan), whose pictures appear on the West Australian Opera's website advertising these 2006 performances. It also uses the same cast and conductor as we heard in a concert performance in Brisbane in July this year, except of course that the Australian Youth Orchestra, which played so brilliantly in Brisbane, will be missing, and in place of Lisa Gasteen (Isolde) and John Treleaven (Tristan) Perth will hear Susan Bullock and Alan Woodrow.

Perth has heard these two wonderful singers before, in February 2003 in two concert performances of Gotterdammerung, as Brunnhilde and Siegfried. In the Newsletter at that time I wrote "I doubt that I will hear the Siegfried- Siegfried prologue sung live with such power and searing incandescence as Susan Bullock and Alan Woodrow delivered in all these Perth performances” and I recommend these 2006 Tristan performances with Bullock and Woodrow to you all. Perth is setting itself a very high target indeed with a staged production so soon after the wonderful concert performance in Brisbane. It is a pity that Opera Australia does not feel that it can set itself targets like this.

As with the Wellington Parsifal, the Perth Tristan is part of the WA Opera's 2006 subscription season, and seats for non-subscribers go on sale on 1 December 2005 through His Majesty's Theatre in Perth, phone (08) 9321 5869, fax (08) 9324 1134. His Majesty's Theatre seats just under 1,250, so if you want tickets it will be something you should book sooner, rather than later, and as with the Wellington Parsifal, it is a case of every member for her- or him-self. If you need more information go to the West Australian Opera's website, http://www.waopera.asn.au/ , where you will see an open-air performance of Samson and Delilah with Stuart Skelton (Siegmund in the Neidhardt Ring).

Wagner Society Functions in 2006

Our first function in 2006 will be on Sunday 19 February, and will be a window on the work of the Conservatorium of Music. We hope that Professor Kim Walker, Dean of the Conservatorium, will be able to open this window with an introduction to the work of the Conservatorium, especially its Opera Unit. Then Sharolyn Kimmorley, who needs no introduction, will illustrate the coaching techniques she uses with singers by conducting a class with a pupil from the Conservatorium.

Because the Wellington Parsifal is on the weekend on the third Sunday in March - our traditional meeting date - and because April has Easter and Anzac Day public holidays around its third Sunday, we will be combining the March and April meetings in 2006 and having a single function on Sunday 2 April, at which Alan Whelan will speak on the life and works of Siegfried Wagner.

On Sunday 21 May - the Sunday closest to Richard Wagner's birthday - we will have our Annual General Meeting, to be followed by a recital by the students from the Conservatorium who received scholarships to study German language at the Goethe-Institut, accompanied by Sharolyn Kimmorley, and then our annual birthday party for Herr Wagner. This is usually our best-attended function of the year, despite the AGM, which in 2006 will include deliberations on the vexed question of how we should apply for and allocate tickets for the Bayreuth festival each year.

On Sunday 16 July Nigel Butterley will present his second talk, this time on the music of Franz Liszt. Nigel's talk at our October meeting on "Wagner and Liszt" was particularly well received, and Nigel has agreed to return and speak about another aspect of Liszt's music.

On Sunday 17 September, we will ask those members who attend the Bayreuth festival in 2006 to speak on the new Ring production, the first conducted there by Christian Thielmann. The enthusiasm for this new Ring has led to us receiving more than three times our normal number of applications - 28 in total - for next year's festival, although I have heard that some members will dispose of their tickets Bayreuth's current production of Parsifal, and in some cases to the productions of Tristan and Hollander.

We are waiting on confirmation of the availability of our speaker for Sunday 15 October.

On Sunday 19 November, Alan Whelan will give an illustrated talk on Rienzi. Alan says that it can be argued that the libretto for Rienzi is the best libretto that Wagner wrote before Rheingold, and also that Rienzi is a superior work to Hollander. This should be an interesting and possibly controversial talk.

On Sunday 10 December 2006, we will have our end-of-year party.

This time last year

This time last year most of us were in or on our way to Adelaide for the Neidhardt Ring. It's sad to reflect that, a year on, the promised recording from the federally-funded Melba Foundation has not appeared. Their website, http://www.melbarecordings.com.au/, now does not appear to list the Ring at all, and perhaps it has been buried like so much else from that glorious production. For example, despite recording some 90 hours of film, the ABC could manage only a one-hour documentary, and that was rescheduled a few times before it was finally broadcast, because Aunty didn't think that anyone would be interested.

The Goethe-Institut is to be congratulated for sponsoring an exhibition of photographs of the production by Michael Scott-Mitchell, the set designer for the Neidhardt Ring, which is alas as close as we have come to seeing a book or any other pictorial record of that wonderful event.

The whispers about the production being taken up by another country - China? the USA? - have been stilled, and the sets now probably lie sadly in warehouses or containers, somewhere in Adelaide, waiting for an Australian revival of one or all of the works so that they can be brought back onto a stage. And just as those old whispers have been stilled - like the whisper that the State Opera of South Australia may never recover from the financial impact of the bailout - new whispers have taken their place, such as the rumour that any restaging of the Ring will be shackled with meeting the cost of the storage since the debut in 2004, in effect making any revival financially impossible.

I hope that these whispers too will be proved wrong, but the suspicion remains that, after all, we lucky few saw the only staging of the Neidhardt Ring.

And on that ambiguous note, I wish you all a very happy new year, and all the best for 2006, with its promise of great things in Wellington and in Perth.

Roger Cruickshank
14 November 2005