President's Report December 2014

It has been a big year for your Society. Not quite as big as last year, the bicentenary, when there was a giant surge of Wagner events and performances. But we have definitely maintained the momentum. The last events of the year at the Goethe Institute and the Mosman Art Gallery were well attended, and–if the feedback I personally received is any indication–they were very much enjoyed.

One of our most unusual and entertaining functions this year was given by Dr James Wierzbicki on the topic of the Ride of the Valkyries. We are privileged that he has agreed for his talk (in a version slightly edited by our Editor) to be reproduced in this issue of the Quarterly, along with a small selection of the many and varied Valkyrie images he showed.

Our final function of the year was a recital by Anke Höppner, accompanied by pianist David Miller, at the Mosman Art Gallery of Wagner-influenced songs by Alexander Zeminsky and Arnold Schönberg. However, the guests sprang a welcome surprise on the audience by finishing their demanding recital with the Liebestod or Verklärung from Tristan und Isolde. This recital was a wonderful link between the final part of Antony Ernst’s seminar earlier in the year in which he focussed on the influence of Wagner on later composers and the 2015 performance by the Sydney Symphony of that opera.

In my September report I referred to the fact that there were many fewer English speaking people attending the third Ring Cycle in Bayreuth than in previous years. This is largely because the Wagner Societies around the world are no longer receiving the bulk allocation of tickets which we used previously to receive. In this regard there might be a small spark of light at the end of the tunnel, but at least in the short term the situation is unlikely to change.

Your Society continues its membership of the Friends of Bayreuth, and this provides us with two tickets each year, generally taking in all the operas which are performed that year. But this is only a small proportion of the tickets which were previously made available under the old regime. As a result, I have been asked to inform members how they can obtain tickets to Bayreuth without waiting up to ten years.

I should say at the outset that the queue has considerably decreased over recent years, which I suspect is at least partially a reaction to the newer productions, some of which have not been met with great enthusiasm. I should add here that the musical standards remain very high. But even with the reduced delay, people who book through the box office are likely to have to wait a number of years before obtaining tickets.

One way of reducing this delay is through joining the Friends of Bayreuth. The joining fee is 260 euros, with an annual fee of 205 euros. If you apply for tickets through the Friends, you will be likely to receive them about every second year. You can join the Friends by going to the website at

In the June Quarterly of this year I mentioned the International Association of Wagner Societies, known as the Verband. In accordance with what I said then, we subsequently declined to renew our membership for this year. Since then there have been a number of changes. Amongst other things, the organisation appears to be much less German-centric than previously. Accordingly, we have reversed our decision and determined to renew our membership from the beginning of next year. The Verband will be holding its annual congress in Dessau, Germany, in May next year and at present I am planning to attend. I will keep you informed of any further news from this organisation.

On 16 October 2014, I wrote to Members advising that, for many years, Renate and Herman Junker, long term members of our Society, have generously undertaken to coordinate the serving of refreshments at our events. We are now turning to our members to seek volunteers to assist us to provide a similar service for our events in 2015. Please see my letter later in the Quarterly.

In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy and fulfilling festive season, and look forward to seeing many of you at the wonderful series of events we have organised for next year. In this regard, I must specially remind you that the Sydney Symphony will be mounting two concert performances of Tristan and Isolde on 20 and 22 June 2015, with Stewart Skelton and Christine Brewer in the title roles. We are planning to hold a “Tristan” seminar before these performances, probably on Sunday 14th June. Keep watching for further details.

The Hon Justice Jane Mathews