Members Remember

A personal reminiscence of Bayreuth 1954-55

By Alec Cohen, Member No. 355

I first visited Bayreuth in 1954 and again in 1955 with my wife, Aviva. We had just finished our university studies in Perth, WA, had married in Sydney and were off to London in late 1953 as soon as we had saved money for the boat fare. It was like sailing into heaven. The rich concert life, the theatre, the prospect of Bayreuth, of live Furtwängler concerts, created a sense of youthful euphoria which lasted 2½ years before we returned to Perth and the sun.

Celebration cake memories


Happy birthday

The Wagner Society has celebrated Wagner's birthday (22 May) every year since 1981, first with a supper of typical German food and wines, then by many annual dinners with guest speakers which in 1995 became luncheons at the Women's Club, and more recently by champagne toasts following a recital at the Goethe Institut.

Remembering 'an alternative bayreuth'

By Jean Louis Stuurop, Member no. 75

As part of the occasional remembering of the Society’s history under the Swan Lines logo, we reproduce here from the Society Newsletter No. 4 September 1981 the invitation from Jean Louis Stuurop, on behalf of the committee, to attend an “Alternative Bayreuth” at the Concordia Club in Stanmore, Sydney, starting on 18 October 1981 with 'Der fliegende Holländer'. From this small beginning a major tradition of our Society has grown.

Remembering the first decade

By Leona Geeves, Member no. 87

Thinking back over the 40 years of the Wagner Society in NSW made me realise that it has been part of my life for almost the whole of that time – at first in attending events and more lately organising those events – talks and concerts, and seminars, and promoting young singers and working out the processes by which we can assist them, by approving the applications for funding from young and emerging singers and creatives.


Our 25th anniversary (2005)

Chronology and significant events

President’s Introduction

Our Newsletter editor, Terence Watson, has scoured our Newsletters and produced a list of committee members and officeholders and related historical information from the Society’s beginning to the present. I had hoped that we could also publish a complete list of all the Society’s members, from Betty Maloney (member number 1) to Tim Green (our newest member, number 933), but unfortunately our recent past includes a period in which records were misplaced or destroyed, and this has not been possible.

Our logos

The original 'swan' logo of the Wagner Society in NSW which is pictured below was designed by founding member Michel Arnould at the Foundation meeting on 26 October 1980.


It appeared in our Newsletters from 1981 until 2012.

About Joseph Ferfoglia

Joseph Ferfoglia, Member no. 45
By Roger Cruickshank, Member no. 669

In Memoriam: Joseph Ferfoglia

I heard third-hand, a few months ago, that Joseph Ferfoglia had died. I met Joseph and his second wife, Judy, through the Wagner Society, and we became good friends in a period late in their lives, before the slow descent into old age shut them off from the world. I thought I should gather together some of the fragments I recall of Joseph (and Judy), in a vaguely chronological order, so that they weren’t lost, at least for a little while.

A personal reminiscence

By Esteban Insausti, Member no. 433

In the Wagner Quarterly 158 (September 2020), new President Esteban Insausti used his first report to say a little about himself, as well as attempt to explain why he has been a member of the Society for some 33 years (joined in 1987 – member number 433):

The story of Alec and Aviva, and how the musical blood runs through the family

Alec and Aviva Cohen, Members No. 355
By Jessica Harper about her grandparents-in-law

Alec and Aviva Cohen lived in Roseville, Sydney in a beautiful house surrounded by nature and gardens.

Alec’s love of Wagner was initially nurtured by his first connections with a certain Mr. Whitfield or ’Mr. Whitty’ whom he met upon entering university in Perth, and who gathered students around to listen to the great classics on his record player. He shared this newfound passion with his numerous siblings, who were similarly taken. Their shared love of classical music was to remain a firm bond among the siblings for the duration of their long lives.

A Page from the History of Wagner in Australia

By Phillip Bennett: Member no. 925

As part of the Newsletter's ad hoc project to record aspects of the history of Wagner performances in NSW and people's personal experiences within that larger history, I am pleased to bring you a reminiscence from Mr Phillip Bennett, retired of Taree:

Growing up in a small country town during the mid to late 1940's wasn't exactly an ideal place to develop a love for the music-dramas of Richard Wagner. Books on the subject would have been almost non-existent, as were recordings. There certainly weren't any society lectures and I doubt if many people in the town would have heard of Richard Wagner let alone be familiar with his music.

Another Page from the History of Wagner in Australia

By Kevin Mills: member number ??

We are pleased to be able to present another chapter in our continuing occasional series on the impact of Wagner on the lives of people in and around Sydney. This issue’s story is from a now retired singer who worked for many years with the Australian Opera as well as in overseas companies. As with Phillip Bennett, Kevin Mills stumbled onto Wagner at an early age and was also transformed for life by the experience.

Wagner's birthdays remembered


Happy birthday


Richard Wagner was born on 22 May 1813.

From his childhood Wagner had been accustomed to seeing family-life made enjoyable at every opportunity. Long afterwards, he wrote 'Ah! then one still had household garlands! Then a poem was composed and enacted for every birthday; no festival without its special ode.'

1841: 28th birthday (Meudon, outside Paris)

Wagner and his first wife Minna moved to Meudon in April. On 22 May Wagner had a cheerless twenty-eighth birthday.

1843: 30th birthday (Dresden)

Memories of Wagner and Christmas


Merry Christmas

In Wagner’s life Christmas had always played an important role. The two women he loved most, Mathilde and Cosima, both were born around Christmas, on 23 and 24 December, and used to celebrate their birthdays on 25 December together with Christmas. Before Christmas he used to secretly prepare Christmas presents for his lovers.

On 25 December 1830 the first premiere of a piece by Wagner took place; the lost Paukenschlagouverture in B-Flat major, WWV 10.