President's Annual Report 2002 - 2003

President's Address to the 23rd Annual General Meeting of the Wagner Society in NSW

I am pleased to present the 23rd Annual Report of the Wagner Society in NSW, for the year from 1 April 2002 to 31 March 2003.


Looking back at the Society's activities over that period, the highlights included Dr John Casey's reminiscences on the Kupfer / Barenboim Wagner Festtage in Berlin, which he gave at our annual Wagner birthday luncheon (May 2002), the recital given by Lisa Harper-Brown and Stuart Skelton at our last AGM (July 2002), Anthony Ernst's talk on Rienzi (October 2002), Elke Neidhardt's question and answer session (November 2002) and Professor Michael Ewans' talk entitled "Wagner in Perspective - 120 Years after the Master's Death" (February 2003).

The recital given by Lisa Harper-Brown and Stuart Skelton, with Francis Greep and Michael Black at the piano, in the Paddington Uniting Church, was the highlight for me, because it showed the depth of talent which the Society has helped in a small way to foster, and confirmed the importance of helping Australian singers and musicians starting out in their careers.


The Honorary Treasurer's Report will show that our financial position is sound and that in addition to meeting all our normal costs we provided over $12,000 in donations over this period, including $2,700 for the 2002 Bayreuth Scholar, Natalie Jones; $3,300 as part of our $10,000 sponsorship of Stuart Skelton in the role of Siegfried in the 2004 Adelaide Ring; and $2,000 to the Perth International Arts Festival to support two concert performances of Gotterdammerung in February 2003.


(The President reported on this matter)


At our annual end-of-year party (December 2002), we thanked six members for their hard work, commitment and loyalty to the Society, making them "Friends of the Wagner Society in NSW". They were Sue Kelly, Janet Wayland, Clare Hennessy, Margaret Hennessy, Barbara Brady and Shirley Robertson. These are new awards, which we hope to make annually.


We continue to maintain good relationships with the German Consulate and Consul General, and with the Goethe Institut, and we thank their officers and staff for their support.

We are also pleased to continue to support Opera Foundation Australia by providing financial assistance to the Bayreuth Scholar each year.

There are many people in the Society I wish to thank, foremost among them the members of your Committee who work so hard on your behalf. First, I must reverse our recent roles and thank Barbara McNulty, who has this year been one of our Vice Presidents and our Honorary Secretary. For many, Barbara remains the public face of the Society, and her experience and sharp wit have been invaluable in keeping me on track.

Elle Rasink volunteered to be our Honorary Treasurer after our last AGM, and she has rescued us from a mire of ledger books and spreadsheets and taken us gently into the brave new world of computerised accounting packages (MYOB).

My heartfelt thanks to Terence Watson, who continues as Editor of our Newsletter, on which we rely to keep in touch with our members, and to Sandy Dudgeon, Dennis Mather and Julian Block, who are always there to provide much-needed support and willing hands. Special thanks too to Monica Olave and Colin Jones, who volunteered to join the Committee after the last AGM, but have resigned from the committee since the end of this year.

As you may remember, Richard King found a costume from Bayreuth - which was a gift from Wolfgang Wagner - while cleaning out his linen cupboard - a sailor's costume (trousers, jacket and sailor's cap) from the 1978 Kupfer production of the Flying Dutchman - which Reinhard Heinrich brought to the Society when he was in Sydney as costume designer for the 1988 bi-centennial production of Die Meistersinger. Colin Jones had the thankless task of visiting the major international auction houses based here in Sydney to see whether it might have some value, but was turned away at every door.

Special thanks also to Shirley Robertson, who sets up and provides the afternoon teas which make that part of our meetings so enjoyable; to John Studdert, our web master; to our faithfully Ravens, Camron Dyer and Richard Mason; and to Barbara Brady whose delicious Christmas Cakes are the most sought-after prize at our end-of-year raffle.


2003 is the 190th anniversary of Wagner's birth (in 1813) and the 120th anniversary of his death (in 1883). It is also the last year of Edo de Waart's tenure as chief conductor and artistic director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and the last year of Simone Young's tenure as musical director of Opera Australia. Both are champions of Wagner's work, and we have yet to see whether their replacements, Messrs Gelmetti and Hickox, will share this passion.

We will be expanding our range of functions, for example by co-sponsoring in September 2003 a master class at the NSW Conservatorium of Music by the renowned Wagnerian bass, Sir Donald McIntyre, and by holding our November 2003 function at the premises of Mr Denis Condon, who has an extensive collection of piano rolls and mechanical musical devices.

We are in the early stages of discussions with the State Opera of South Australia about sponsoring a recital by Phillip Kang here in Sydney in August or September 2004, hopefully in conjunction with a weekend seminar on the Ring which will be specifically targeted at people from New South Wales who have booked for the Adelaide Ring Cycle in November and December 2004. Watch our Newsletters for further information.

We are looking for new ways of encouraging young artists to take a greater interest in Wagner early in their careers, and I will be meeting with Sharolyn Kimmorley of the Conservatorium of Music (who is the 2003 Bayreuth Scholar) over the next few weeks to discuss a number of funding opportunities for the Society.


Lastly I would like to thank those members who support our functions and other activities, including by coming to this AGM. Your interest and encouragement is the reason we are here.

Roger Cruickshank 20 July 2003