My trip to Bayreuth this year, while greatly anticipated, proved to be somewhat of a disappointment. While in Salzburg we heard all sorts of rumours that Hans Sotin and Waltraud Meier had pulled out of their roles as Gurnemanz and Sieglinde. Newspaper crits of the new Ring were passed from hand to hand and eagerly discussed with the result that we went to Bayreuth not knowing what to expect.
Parsifal was our first opera and Matthias HÃ Â¶lle was singing Gurnemanz and, while Christoph Eschenbach conducted the second slowest performance on record, it was well sung and seemed to have a new lease of life. Meistersinger was good and Lohengrin well sung. Roland WagenfÃ¼hrer was ill and so Lohengrin was sung by Robert Dean Smith (who also sang Walther the preceding night!). The production remains very dark in many ways.
Now at last The Ring and Rheingold was most enjoyable. The singing was good and the production by Jurgen Flimm and Erich Wonder, while very contemporary, worked well. The only cause for concern was Giuseppe Sinopoli's conducting, which was uneven and inconsistent. WalkÃ¼re opened with a wonderful depiction of Hunding's house and I shall treasure for many years the scene between Placido Domingo and Waltraud Meier as Siegmund and Sieglinde. Unfortunately, the third act with the Valkyries was a huge let down. Much flashing light and abseiling down the walls of Valhalla while a small army of women engaged in some form of military drill and queues of walking dead heroes made for a very busy and rather messy stage.
In Siegfried things went from bad to worse and the appearance of a young Hagan as a snivelling schoolboy in Act 2 served no useful purpose. The scene was bleak in the extreme and the dragon, made of black plastic, was not effective. The third act is best forgotten as Gabrielle Schnaut was having great difficulty with her voice.
GÃ Â¶tterdÃ¤mmerung opened well, but the last act was very disappointing as Flimm seemed to have run out of ideas. A series of scrims does not suffice for the immolation or the destruction of the world. A young Parsifal just before the final curtain left us puzzled.
Since my return I have met with Adrian Collette from Opera Australia to talk about a closer relationship. I was glad to assure him of our continuing support for future Wagnerian productions. I asked him about the possibility of a future Opera Australia Ring Cycle and await his response with interest. I have also contacted Craig Bush from the Art Gallery of NSW and we have arranged a seminar on Lohengrin at the Gallery on 4 August 2001.
It is with great sadness that we record the death of Lady Finley. Berry had many friends among our members and will be missed by all who knew her. We extend our sympathy to her family.
Those of you who were at the Annual General Meeting are aware that the Committee is concerned about our financial position and that it has been necessary to increase membership fees for next year. Our Society's primary aim is to support and encourage regular performances of Wagner's great operas.
To be able to maintain our past level of grants, it is essential that we cover the costs of all functions including our monthly meetings. The Committee resolved to seek your cooperation in attending as many meetings as possible as we need a minimum of 40 members to cover the costs of a film afternoon and 50 when we have speakers or singers.
It is expensive to use the Goethe Institut, but I doubt if we could find anywhere that gives us such pleasant surroundings, in a venue that is so convenient, together with high quality audio visual equipment. With this in mind, the Committee has decided to change the format of the Christmas Party slightly by asking each of you to bring a plate to the party. We will supply wine and soft drink as well as Christmas cake and of course we will run our usual raffle with prizes of a Christmas cake, a Wagner watch and a bottle of champagne.
On Friday, 24 November Terence Watson and I were pleased to have the opportunity to farewell the German Consul to Sydney, Dr Roever and his wife who are returning to Bonn. We look forward to developing an equally friendly relationship with his successor.
I look forward to seeing many of you at the Christmas party and extend my best wishes to you all for a happy festive season and a happy, healthy New Year.
21 November 2000