January / April / September / December 2011
Happy New Year, and welcome to our first Newsletter in 2011.
Functions in 2011
New Year is the one time when we can allow ourselves a few moments of romantic indulgence, as we gaze across the misty landscape of 2011 and beyond, like the unknown and over-dressed young man in Casper David Friedrich's famous painting 'Der Wanderer uber dem Nebelmeer' (Wanderer above the Sea of Fog). Cynics will tell you that the poor man was blind, and that with his next step he plummets cane and all onto jagged rocks below, but not every story has a happy ending.
For our Society, I hope that 2011 will be an important year on our way to the milestone of 2013, when we will celebrate both the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner's birth and the Armfield Ring in Melbourne.
Our first function for 2011 is on Sunday 20 February, when David Larkin will give a talk entitled 'Cui bono? The Liszt-Wagner relationship reconsidered.' (In case your Latin is a little scratchy, Wikipedia tells us that cui bono means 'to whose benefit?', literally 'as a benefit to whom?'.) In its own right, 2011 is the 200th anniversary of Liszt's birth, an anniversary without which Wagner's life could have ended very differently in 1849.
David Larkin teaches courses in musicology and music analysis at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, with the music and aesthetics of Richard Strauss, Wagner and Liszt his main research interests.
On Sunday 20 March, Dr Terence Watson will speak on 'Rousseau and Wagner: musician-philosophers', which forms a chapter of his forthcoming book on Wagner.
Tony Palmer was to have toured Wagner Societies in Australia and New Zealand from mid-March to mid-April this year, visiting Sydney from April 1 to 4. Unfortunately his tour has been postponed, and we will let you know when it is rescheduled. Mr Palmer recently released a special commemorative 25th anniversary edition of his epic film 'Wagner' starring Richard Burton and Vanessa Redgrave, and in 2009 released a new documentary 'The Wagner Family'. He was hoping to show these to audiences in Australia and New Zealand during his tour.
On Sunday 17 April Brendan Carmody, the inaugural winner of the 'Berlin New Music Opera Award' will talk about his three months in Europe, including working with Barry Kosky at the Komische Oper Berlin.
Sunday 22 May is the 198th anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner, and will be our Annual General Meeting, a recital by Rachel Bate, and a birthday celebration for RW.
Bayreuth 2011 - the 100th Bayreuth Festival
We have been fortunate to obtain 12 sets of tickets for the 2011 Bayreuth Festival. The performances and dates are:
Meistersinger - Wednesday 24 August 2011 Tannhauser - Thursday 25 August Lohengrin - Friday 26 August
Parsifal - Saturday 27 August
Tristan und Isolde - Sunday 28 August
As a number of the original applicants have withdrawn their applications, we have sets of 5 tickets available to members only. If you're interested, please contact Roger Cruickshank on 0414 553 282.
News from abroad
In my letter to members in Newsletter 118, I reported that Jessica Pratt had received excellent reviews for her performances in the title role of Rossini's opera Armida at the Garsington Opera in Oxfordshire, UK. Jessica has now debuted at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in the role of the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Die Zauberflote, under the baton of Sir Colin Davis. Although the season began on 1 February, I haven't yet found a review of Jessica's performance in a major paper, but I'll let you know when I do.
In 2010, Miriam Gordon-Stuart debuted in Bayreuth in the role of Helmwige. In October last year, one of our most peripatetic members Elizabeth Gordon- Werner, saw Miriam sing the role of Ellen Orford in Britten's opera Peter Grimes in Bremerhaven, one and a half hours by train from Elizabeth's home in Hamburg. Elizabeth reports that 'Miriam was wonderful - a great actress as well as having a lovely voice.' Miriam is also the current odds-on favourite for the role of Sieglinde in the Armifield Ring in Melbourne in 2013. If this rumour is now official, I've missed the confirmation.
James Roser, a young baritone whom the Society helped in 2009 with tuition in Europe, has been living in Berlin, working regularly with staff at opera houses and with a number of pianists and singers on some of the major song cycles in the Lieder repertoire. James will be in Germany for the remainder of the year, and will give the Society a talk and recital when he returns to Australia in 2012.
And one last report from Elizabeth Gordon-Werner, this time on reaction to Simone Young's recent season of Gotterdammerung in Hamburg, the last step in assembling her Ring Cycle, which so many members will be attending later this year. Elizabeth saw the premier of the season on 17 December 2010, and was stunned that the orchestra, conductor and producer were all booed. She reported that 'The Hamburg Abendblatt's assessment of Gotterdammerung was cutting. The header read 'Wagner's 'Gotterdammerung': Apocalypse without Wow' and finished with the sentence 'Jetzt beginnt, schneller als gedacht, die Gottinnendammerung in der Staatsoper Hamburg.' (Now begins, faster than we imagined, the Twilight of the Goddess at the Hamburg Opera.)' As Elizabeth commented, 'How difficult it is to stay on a pedestal.'
Stephen Fry's documentary 'Wagner and Me'
The Orpheum theatre in Cremorne (Sydney) will be showing a documentary film made by Stephen Fry entitled 'Wagner and Me' in limited release from 3 March. Fans of Stephen Fry will need no encouragement to see this film, which builds on some of the themes first developed in Mr Fry's appearance on the English television show 'Who do you think you are?'
The film was originally screened in August last year on BBC4, and since then has become something of a cult classic, like its maker. It has its own serious website - www.wagnerandme.com/ - and YouTube is awash with spoofs of the programme, some of which are remarkably inventive.
Quite what Mr Fry's legions of admirers will make of all this Wagnerism, I'm not sure. Nor can I begin to guess how Herr Wagner's own legions will react to Mr Fry's unique perspective as he attempts (as the movie trailer says) to 'save the music he loves from its dark and troubled history'.
Last September, I had the pleasure of attending a Ring Cycle in Lubeck, around 60km north-east of Hamburg. The old city of Lubeck is on an island in the Trave River, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has a population of some 215,000, and is the largest German port on the Baltic Sea. So much for the tourist brochures.
In the clichÃ Â©d tradition of small places which do things well despite being overshadowed by a more famous neighbour, Lubeck is said to 'punch above its weight' in many areas, including opera performances. It may not have the financial and artistic resources of Hamburg's eagerly awaited Ring Cycle under the baton of Simone Young, but Lubeck's Cycle was no less an extraordinary artistic and musical achievement.
I'd like to share with you some random and personal recollections, views and details of the Cycle and other things, many more of which may find their way into a coherent review on our website in due course.
Tickets to the whole cycle ranged from 72 to 172 Euro (at that time, A$120 to $290). Naturally, my friends and I splashed out on the premium tickets, but worried until the tickets arrived that they were so cheap that we might only be going to Rheingold. The argument you hear about this kind of pricing is that it's only possibly because opera is heavily subsidised by the German government. Since poor American mortgage lending practices triggered a global financial crisis, this is no longer true, if it ever was, as the number of opera companies closing down across Germany shows. And a country which spends A$46 million to buy one vote for a game of soccer is hardly on high moral ground when denouncing subsidies.
The opera house itself is small, until the curtain goes up. In the stalls, where we sat, there are only 15 rows of seats. All up, counting the balconies and 3 tiers of circle, the capacity of the Grosses Haus Lubeck is 780. Not all seats were filled - I had never seen empty seats at a Ring Cycle before - and some seats were taken by musical instruments, with the harps occupying the balconies, and with video cameras, which recorded every performance.
Nothing of this small-scale, cosy atmosphere prepared me for the shock of seeing the stage area when the curtain went up. Size, as Lady Bracknell might have opined, really is everything when it comes to stage area. It was huge, vast, immense and cavernous, but I cannot say how many Olympic-size swimming pools (our national unit of volume measurement) it would have contained. As an indication, during Rheingold there were a number of containers on the stage, and many more floating in the vast space above it. (In the early stages above the Rhine, it really was a construction site.) These are adapted to work as offices and sheds on the site, and chillingly, the Giants take Freia into one overnight while Wotan and Loge go down to rob Alberich of his gold. There is no doubt in this production that the Giants rape Freia, although the inference is subtly drawn.
Not so subtle is the scene at the end of Gotterdammerung, when Hagan's thugs (alas, we Vassals aren't a nice lot in this production) rape Gutrune offstage, and to ensure that none of us has missed the point, she returns with blood smeared generously over her thighs. She needs to have a little motivation, it seems, to kill Hagan at the end of the show, saving the Rheinmaidens the bother of dragging him down into their watery depths. As Hagan had speared her own beloved husband in the back, so Gutrune thrusts a spear (which BrÃ1⁄4nnhilde has conveniently dragged around all night) into Hagan's side, proving perhaps that what goes around, comes around. Or that opera producers who laboriously stage a Ring Cycle one work a year over 4 years have by the end run out of ideas and out of interest. Perhaps they have a Lulu to stage?
The outstanding singer of the cycle was the glorious BrÃ1⁄4nnhilde of the young American soprano Rebecca Teem. She too has her own website (www.rebeccateem.com/) where you can hear her immolate with a few screeches to a rather lacklustre piano accompaniment. This is a pale imitation of the wonder we saw and heard in the flesh in Lubeck, but it gives a glimpse of what I hope the full DVD version will show abundantly - a wonderful actress, and a glorious voice. Nothing about her physical appearance prepared me for the vocal power and intelligence she mustered in that role. Remember the name - Rebecca Teem!!
At the start of Act 1 of Gotterdammerung, Rebecca and Siegfried and their family of 10 or 12 kinder of a certain cutesy age are enjoying domestic bliss as Siegfried prepares for his journey. Perhaps daddy is going to catch the morning train? Another child arrives, 8 or 10 years old, and with his slicked- down black hair, toothbrush moustache and lederhosen, we know we're not in Kansas any more. So do the other children, who quickly line up in terrified serried ranks until Rebecca shoos the Child Adolf away. (During the interval, I asked someone who had driven up from Munich for the performance whether
German opera viewers were tired of having the Nazi era rammed down their throats when opera producers ran out of ideas, and he replied politely that it was meant to be 'ironic'.) Child Adolf makes one more head-banging appearance, when Rebecca was at her weakest moment after Waltraute's home visit, wearing a Wolf's Head over his own and tormenting her. Such subtlety.
When Siegfried in the guise of Gunther comes to take Rebecca by force to the Gibich, Hagan's thugs murder the whole screaming bunch of kinder surprises, and not a moment too soon. I'm making a list of other operas where Hagan's Boys could rid us of cutesy children's choruses, and Carmen and La boheme are up there at the top.
The production was suitably modern regietheatre. Rheingold was brimming full of interesting images and ideas, and after that it went downhill. (Will M. LePage's Great Big Machine for the NY Met go the same way, I wonder?) The character of Loge was particularly well drawn, and as with the other actors the actions matched each word and each musical cue. Unhappily, the actor who sang Loge was short, fat and ugly, with curly hair and particularly distinctive glasses, which still doesn't explain why I was regularly approached during intervals by people who assumed that I had sung Loge. It's not flattering at my age to be mistaken for a tenor!!
After Rheingold, the ideas began to fail. By Siegfried, the whole conceit was in the stage machinery. A giant revolve, like one of those circular Vache cheeses with segments in foil, was our stage, and when it was spinning happily along our hero could jog through each of the separate revolving sets when the ideas dried up. One was a rather well equipped bar, where Mime mixed drinks. Another of the dried up ideas was the decayed body of Sieglinde, seated in an arm-chair and wrapped in a blanket, past which her son jogged happily as she revolved across our stage. The Woodbird was a rather voluptuous nurse and spectacularly gifted soprano, under Wotan's control, who carried a giant hypodermic needle and injected people with gallons of a substance which turned them into the Living Dead of many a B- grade movie, Nosferatu among them. Did it mean anything? Did I care? Alberich suffered this fate and hadn't found the antidote when he came to pester Hagan during his Watch in Gotterdammerung.
In Rheingold, while Erda was warning Wotan to give up the Ring (and Wotan was wondering how many children she could bear him), three wonderfully clad slender women in the style of Hindu goddesses draped in spectacular costumes glided majestically across the stage. These were the Norns in happy times. By Gotterdammerung, they have become the most degenerate bar girls, entertaining Hagan's thugs in one of his local establishments. Or were those the Rheindaughters? Actually, it didn't matter.
Melbourne Ring Cycle - 2013
I would like to thank Ms Maureen Wheeler, a major donor to the Melbourne Ring Cycle in 2013, for agreeing to give our Members an insight into her introduction to Wagner's music and how that led to her to joining the ranks of tragic 'cyclists' scouring the globe for another 'fix' of the potent brew that Wagner concocted in The Ring Cycle. We are privileged that Ms Wheeler has taken the time to write the article for our Newsletter (see below). Many of our Members have shared Ms Wheeler's 'road-to-Damascus conversion,' and will find as well as finding much to think about in her assessments of the various Cycles she has attended over the last few years.
And there, gentle reader, my reminiscences must end. Ring Cycles are a magic elixir for Wagnerians, and this one for all its faults was pure ambrosia. It was an overwhelming undertaking brilliantly executed, and a deeply satisfying and difficult experience. I hope that Neil Armfield's 2013 Ring will be that for all of us, and more.
Welcome to the second newsletter for 2011.
Annual General Meeting
The Society held its Annual General Meeting on 22nd May, the 198th birthday of the Master. Those of you who were present will know that there were a number of new members elected onto the Committee. I was honoured to be elected President. The other Committee members are set out below.
Retiring Committee Members
I know that all of you will join with me in extending our heartfelt thanks to the retiring members of the Committee: Julie Carroll, Michael Moore and Gabrielle Bremner-Moore. Each of them has put a great deal of time and energy into their role, and has contributed significantly to the causes of the Society. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
What can I say to express our gratitude to our outgoing President, Roger Cruickshank? Roger has been President of the Society for almost ten years now. During that time he has given his all for the benefit of the Society and its members, and we have been treated to a feast of fascinating events at Society functions. I am only now starting to realise and appreciate how much work Roger has been putting into the society affairs over those years. What we see at the meetings is but the tip of the iceberg.
We will sorely miss Roger's eloquence and erudition, both in these pages and at our meetings. He is a very hard act to follow. The only consolation is that he has agreed to remain on the Committee, so that we can continue to have access to his wealth of wisdom and experience, not to mention his fresh ideas and innovative approach. Thank you for everything, Roger!
Meeting of the New Committee
The new committee met just over a week after the AGM. The only absentee was Tony Jones, who was in Singapore. However Tony had very helpfully made a number of written suggestions before he left, which were adopted with enthusiasm and thanks.
The Committee agreed that membership was a priority issue. It was proposed that we commence a drive to follow up non-financial members. It was also agreed that, by way of an additional incentive to join the Society, non- members in future will be charged $20 to attend meetings. Members will continue to pay $15.
The Committee has arranged to meet four times a year: in April, July, October and January. The next Committee meeting will be held on 25th July. If any of you want any matter to be raised at this meeting, please contact myself or one of the other Committee Members.
Membership: A Milestone
Speaking of membership, I am delighted to report that we have recently passed a significant milestone: we have registered our thousandth member! Not all of them are current, of course, but that is a different matter. I would like to congratulate Rainald and Pauline Roesch, who have acquired an unforgettable membership number.
One of Tony Jones' recommendations was that we establish a membership committee as well as two interlocking sub-committees, for Activities and Marketing. The Committee unanimously adopted these suggestions, and the following people were voted onto the sub-committees:
Membership sub-committee: Dennis Mather (chair)
Activities (Events) sub-committee: Tony Jones (chair)
Jane Mathews (ex officio)
Marketing sub-committee: Tony Jones (chair)
Jane Mathews (ex officio)
All three sub-committees have now met, and have set their priorities and goals. The membership sub-committee has set a goal of increasing the number of current members to 500 by the end of 2013, in time for the Melbourne Ring. The Events sub-committee has the dual task of organising regular Society functions, as well as looking forward to the bicentenary celebrations, and determining where the Society should be concentrating its attentions. The marketing sub-committee determined to focus on the forthcoming Met screenings of Die Walkure, with an information flyer about the Society and a membership application to be distributed to patrons at the theatres. In addition, an appeal for donations has been sent out to all members.
The following passages were written by Tony Jones, the chair of both the Events and the Marketing sub-committees:
'Both the Events and Marketing committees met over the long weekend and started gathering ideas and considering initiatives that will add to the value and enjoyment derived from being a member. We are being careful not to abandon aspects of the Society's operations that are much liked and appreciated whilst experimenting with new concepts that will create a strong sense of community, learning and enjoyment. We will be looking to increase the range of organisations we relate to and share benefits with, at the same time as creating social environments in which to meet and hear the personal experiences of other members!
'Look out for subtle changes to our calendar and new ways to participate in the activities of the Society. Most importantly, please feel free to contribute your ideas and give feedback, as well as participating: your Committee cannot do everything alone!'
I entirely endorse Tony's comments. In particular, I would like to emphasise that membership of the sub-committees is not restricted to Committee members. It was agreed at the meeting that interested members of the Society should be able to join any of the sub-committees. So if any of you is interested in doing so, I encourage you to contact the chair of the sub- committee you would like to join.
The Hamburg Ring Cycle
An amazing number of Australians attended the second Ring Cycle in Hamburg between 1st and 10th April 2011. Approximately 160 went with Renaissance Tours, staying in four different hotels. Numerous others attended individually, leading to a total of well over 200 Ozzies in that northern German outpost. Everywhere you turned you saw a familiar face from back home. One of the bartenders at the opera house asked why there were so many English speakers, and refused to believe that it was because the audience was dominated by Australians.
The magnet, of course, was Simone Young. She did a superb job of conducting the Opera Orchestra with power and precision. You will find our webmaster's assessment of the experience on the Society's website. I am in complete agreement with him. [Either click on the following website address or copy it and past it into your browser: www.wagner.org.au/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=articl e&id=218.... Editor] Apart from the wonderful orchestral sound, there was some magnificent singing, so that musically it was a huge success. To mention a few of the more outstanding singers: Katerina Dalayman was a truly great Brunnhilde. I was amazed to discover that she had come in at very short notice. Falk Struckmann has always been a most impressive Wotan, and this was no exception. Wolfgang Koch was a great Alberich. I suspect that we will be hearing a lot more about him in the future. I see that he is scheduled to sing Hans Sachs at Covent Garden later this year. Our own Deborah Humble excelled as Erda and Waltraute. Christian Franz sang both Siegmund and Siegfried - a feat which was made easier by the fact that this was a more drawn-out Ring than many. He appeared to be straining at first, and some of us were very concerned as to how he would make it to the end, particularly in the opera Siegfried. However, to give him his due, he preformed creditably to the end.
The real talking point was the production, by Claus Guth. It had some strange features. For example, Scene 1 of Das Rheingold took place on a very large bed, with the three Rhinedaughters as barely pubescent nymphets having pillow fights with each other. Alberich turned up as a gardener, watering the pot plants. That was the only water you saw in the whole scene. As Katie French astutely observed, this was a metaphor for the bed of the Rhine!
Some aspects of the production had many members of the audience scratching their heads with perplexity. But generally, by the end of GÃ Â¶tterdammerung, it had all come together, and there was genuinely ecstatic applause for all aspects of the experience. Most of us were truly sad that it was all over.
Welcome to the third newsletter for 2011.
Much has been happening since the last newsletter. The first and most significant development is that the Society has a new patron. Simone Young has graciously agreed to accept this position. Ms. Young, as most of you will know, is now General Manager and Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera. Many of us were in Hamburg earlier this year when Ms Young conducted an exciting Ring Cycle. Some people had reservations about the production, but I think we all agreed that it was an orchestral triumph. Ms. Young, who still has close family ties in New South Wales, has established a momentous international reputation as a Wagnerian conductor. Details of her illustrious career are set out elsewhere in this newsletter. We are extremely fortunate that she has agreed to become our patron.
Also since the last newsletter was the filming of the Metropolitan Opera Die Walkure at the Dendy, Orpheum and Verona cinemas. The attendances on each occasion were very high. It is not for me to review the opera here. I had already seen it in the flesh in New York, and had generally loved it. My principal reservation related to the hazardous nature of the sets. In the performance I saw, Deborah Voigt, as Brunnhilde, slipped and fell over when she made her first entrance. She recovered herself quickly, but she and other performers were visibly apprehensive while they were walking on the set - an apprehension which was shared by many members of the audience. To return to the Sydney screenings, those of you who attended one of them will probably have seen a member of your Committee at the entrance, handing out Society flyers. We, the Committee, decided that these screenings provided a unique opportunity to extend our membership by informing potential Wagner enthusiasts about the existence and the activities of the Society. A flyer was printed at very short notice, and was handed out to patrons at each of the screenings. As you will see from elsewhere in this newsletter, there has been a significant recent increase in our membership, and I think that much of this is attributable to this initiative. You will see us again at the screenings of Siegfried later this year!
We are in the process of organising some very exciting events for forthcoming Society functions. The two which bear special mention relate to our functions on 16 October this year, and 25 March 2012. For the 16 October function, Lyndon Terracini, the Artistic Director of Opera Australia, has agreed to come and talk about the 2013 Melbourne Ring Cycle, and the numerous initiatives which Opera Australia will be mounting in association with the Ring. I anticipate that our discussions with Lyndon will be both wide-ranging and focused (if that is not a contradiction in terms). He has said that he will be happy to take questions from the floor. So I encourage all of you to come and participate in this significant event.
On 25 March next year, we are extremely fortunate to have secured the attendance of two people who are central to the Melbourne Ring Cycle: Maureen Wheeler and Richard Mills. Richard Mills, as you will know, is to be
the conductor. He conducted the Australian Youth Orchestra in a spell-binding concert performance of Tristan and Isolde in Brisbane a few years ago, which thoroughly established his credentials as a Wagnerian conductor. Maureen Wheeler's story is an extraordinary one. I am not going to spoil it by telling it here. But as you will hear next March, the fact that we are to have a Ring Cycle in Melbourne at all is essentially because of this one person's initiative, drive and generosity.
I am writing this letter from an extremely hot Florence. Today it is a relatively mild 33 degrees. A few days ago it was 41. And this is on a latitude which would lie a little to the north of Hobart, if it were transposed it to the south. I arrived two days ago, after a week in Bayreuth. This is a non-Ring year, which means that they performed five of the six mature operas: Tannhauser, Lohengrin, Tristan, Mastersinger and Parsifal. As always, it was an extraordinary experience to be there. The next Society function, on 18 September, features a report-back by members who were there this year, so I will leave it to them to describe the individual performances. Suffice it for me to say that the days of traditional productions at Bayreuth seem to be well behind us, at least for the moment; but that the musical standards remain extremely high.
Wagner 2013 Bicentenary Donation Appeal
2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner and will be a significant international musical occasion. The Wagner Society hopes to pledge major support for the 2013 Wagner Bicentenary Celebrations. To achieve this, we have set up a 'Wagner 2013 Fund' and we need your support to help make this possible.
Making a donation to the 'Wagner 2013 Fund' will ensure the Society's contributions to the celebrations will be world class. We are considering a number of possible exciting projects. One of them involves supporting a major international artist participating in Opera Australia's Ring performances in November and December 2013. We will also continue to promote the life and works of Richard Wagner through performances and events in Sydney.
Donations are fully tax-deductible and can be made by cheque or money order by direct debit
Thank you for considering this request for support - any donation to the Wagner Society's 'Wagner 2013 Fund' will make a difference.
The Hon Jane Mathews AO President
Wagner Society in New South Wales
Welcome to the final newsletter for 2011.
Your Committee has been working energetically (some members, it seems, have been writing emails almost around the clock) in organising an exciting series of events for next year. Indeed, we have such an abundance of riches that, in addition to our regular functions, we will be participating in some special events in 2012 which will probably double as fundraisers. You will be receiving details of these events as soon as they become available.
The Hamburg Das Rheingold - Brisbane
The Queensland Premier, the Hon Anna Bligh, recently announced two coups de theatre: the first that the Bolshoi Ballet will come only to Brisbane &, more significantly for Wagnerians, that our patron Simone Young will conduct the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Hamburg State Opera in two concert performances of Das Rheingold, the opening opera in Richard Wagner's greatest work, The Ring Cycle. In 2000 in Vienna, Ms Young made musical history when she became the first woman ever to conduct the complete Ring Cycle.
Ms Young will also conduct the performance of Mahler's mighty Symphony No. 2, known as the Resurrection Symphony that will feature soloists from the Hamburg State Opera.
We have also been endeavouring to increase the mix at our events, with a greater variety of performances and deliveries. We want to be relevant and interesting to a wide range of people, so that we attract not only seasoned Wagner lovers, but also those who are potentially open to the lure of the Master's magic.
At the last Society function, on 16th October, Lyndon Terracini, the artistic director of Opera Australia, told a packed Goethe auditorium about the plans for the 2013 Melbourne Ring Cycle. His address was informative, engaging, and at times very humorous. Your editor has brilliantly encapsulated, later in this Newsletter, the information obtained both from Lyndon's address and from speakers at an Opera Australia presentation three days later. The only thing that I can add relates to the future, beyond 2013. Lyndon told us that after 2013 it is proposed that there will be a performance of the Ring Cycle in Melbourne every three years. The 2013 production will be repeated in 2016 and 2019, although not necessarily with the same cast. After that, a new production will be mounted in 2022. What a change this will make for us Australians: to have access to our own Ring Cycle every third year!
Speaking of the 2013 Ring, Opera Australia has developed an Artist Sponsorship Programme. A list of the major performers and their sponsorship amounts is listed in the Newsletter. If any reader is interested in sponsoring a performer, I suggest you contact Nicholas Selman of Opera Australia.
At the last Committee meeting, on 4 October, we discussed the Society's fundraising strategies and the amounts to be allocated to particular causes in the lead-up to the 2013 bicentenary. The Society has long provided financial support for awards and scholarships, particularly for singers who propose to study in Germany. The following resolutions were passed:
1. That support for the Berlin New Music Opera Award continue in 2012 and 2013, capped at $2,500 for each year;
2. That support for other Awards and Scholarships continue in 2012 and 2013, and be capped at $2,500 in total for each year;
3. That forms requesting donations to the Society include options for donations both for Wagner 2013 and for awards and scholarships for singers and other artists;
4. That the combined annual funding commitment of $5,000 be met from specific donations for these programmes, with any surplus donations carried forward to the following year, and any shortfall made up from the Society's working account.
A decision was also made at the meeting to increase admission prices to the Society's functions. From the beginning of 2012, the admission price will be $20.00 for members and $25.00 for non-members. This decision was made after considering the cost of the hire of the Goethe venue, the cost of the afternoon teas, and the amounts sometimes paid to artists and/or speakers. Under the old regime, the Society was barely breaking even, and sometimes suffering a loss. When one compares the cost of comparable events, it is still, I think, extremely good value.
The other matter of interest from the last meeting was the fascinating presentation by Mike Day and Belinda Middlebrook, from the UTS, about their concept for a project called "Wagner Licht." This is described in detail by Katie French later in this newsletter.
Finally, I would like to give my thanks to those who have done so much for the Society this year. And I have to start with Roger Cruickshank, whose massive contribution goes back many years now. I had no idea at all, until earlier this year, how much work and responsibility Roger has been shouldering over the past years. Without his commitment and energy, I hate to think what might have happened to the Society. Most of the tasks that Roger previously undertook on his own are now spread across various members of the Committee. And we still find that we are working overtime!
The other people who deserve our special thanks are Renata and Herman Junker. Members might not realise it, but they provide the delicious afternoon teas which we devour after each of our functions at the Goethe Institute. They donate their time and energy, and I cannot imagine what we would do without their generosity and commitment, not to mention their culinary skills!