President's Report July - August 2009

Dear Members


Annual General Meeting

On Sunday 24 May 2009, following the screening of Act 3 of Katharina Wagner's current Bayreuth production of Die Meistersinger, we held our AGM. In an action-packed 25 minutes or so, we approved the audited accounts, amended the Rules, re-elected the Committee and had time for a robust discussion before raising the membership fees from the 2010 calendar year. I can hardly wait for next year!

From 1 January 2010, the annual membership fees for new and renewing members will be: single members $60, single pensioner member $35, shared memberships $90, shared pensioner memberships $55, with student members $25.

After the AGM, we had recital by Alexandra Hutton (soprano) and Adam Player (baritone) accompanied by Sharolyn Kimmorley. This included In Dem Schatten (Wolf) and Standchen (Schubert) sung by Lexi, and Fruhlingsmorgen (Mahler) and Heiterkeit und Frohlichkeit from Lortzing's comic opera Der Wildschutz sung by Adam, who clearly enjoys comic and character roles.

After the recital, we had a superb afternoon tea, for which I must again thank Renate and Herman Junker, who put so much effort into providing us with outstanding refreshments. Our AGM is held on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of Wagner's birth (which this year was on Friday 22 May), and in past years we have wished the Meister 'Alles Gute zum Geburtstag' (Happy Birthday) in song during our party. However this year the practice ended, much to the relief I suspect of members who found the tradition more than a little anachronistic.

July Recital

On Sunday 19 July 2009, following the re-screening of the DVD Katharina Wagner's Feuertaufe (Baptism of Fire) we were treated to a concert arranged by Stephen Whale, one of our student members and a pianist from the Sydney Conservatorium, with two fellow students Tom Johnson (piano) and Jared Lillehagen (baritone). Stephen Whale had been award a scholarship to enable him to study piano in the United States, where he will be for the next 2 years. Highlights for me included Jared Lillehagen singing Wolfram's aria O du mein holder Abendstern (Ode to the Evening Star) from Tannhauser, and Tom Johnson playing Liszt's transcription of Mild und Liese from Tristan und Isolde.

Lyndon Terracini

The appointment of Lyndon Terracini as Opera Australia's new artistic director was announced at the end of June. Mr Terracini takes up his four-year contract in October.

Corrie Perkin, national arts writer for The Australian, wrote on July 01, 2009 'A new chapter in Opera Australia's eventful 53-year history started yesterday when Lyndon Terracini was appointed the company's new artistic director. Terracini, artistic director of the Brisbane Festival until October, received warm applause when he was introduced to OA staff in Sydney. The 59-year-old former opera singer said he was moved by the company's response. 'I feel privileged and, it's not too strong to say, extremely honoured to be asked to do this job,' Terracini said later.

'His four-year contract follows an intense search for a new creative head, triggered by the death of British conductor Richard Hickox last November. Hickox's death prompted the board to review its management structure and reintroduce the role of artistic director to work with chief executive Adrian Collette and a new conductor. The appointment of a conductor is still several months away.

'Terracini has a long list of goals, such as taking opera to more people, commissioning new Australian work, nurturing young composers, using digital technology on and offstage, and -- rather ambitiously -- staging Wagner's Ring cycle. 'It's one the great peaks you have to climb as an opera company, and one of the great challenges,' Terracini said of the marathon opera. 'I think it's time for the company to take on that great challenge, and it's absolutely ready to do it.'

In an interview some years ago, Terracini said of his political views 'I think it's because of my Salvation Army upbringing. My great grand uncle wrote the Italian constitution and founded the Italian Communist Party... although they were about as far left as the Democrats. I've always had a strong connection to social conscience.'

I'm sure we all wish him well, especially with his goal of staging the Ring in Sydney.

Bayreuth 2010

The application form for Bayreuth 2010 is available online and in this Newsletter. A new production of Lohengrin replaces Tristan und Isolde, with the current Meistersinger, Parsifal and Ring productions continuing. The programme for which we will book tickets is dependent in the dates chosen by the New York Wagner Society, but at this stage is likely to be:

Friday 20 August 2010 Das Rheingold
Saturday 21 August Die Walkure
Sunday 22 August (Free Day)
Monday 23 August Siegfried
Tuesday 24 August (Free Day)
Wednesday 25 August Gotterdammerung
Thursday 26 August Parsifal
Friday 27 August Lohengrin
Saturday 18 August Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg

[See also below for details of new productions at Bayreuth and their directors. Ed]

Bayreuth 2009

This year there was an internet broadcast of a closed performance of Christoph Marthaler's production of Tristan und Isolde on Sunday 9 August. Learning from last year's broadcast of Katharina Wagner's production of Meistersinger, the cost this year was 14, 90 Euro, around a third of the 2008 cost. I hope that there will be a DVD of the broadcast this year as well, so that those who find the Flash® format unhelpful can still enjoy the performance.

As those who went to Bayreuth this year will report at our next meeting on Sunday 20 September, Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier have made very few changes to the traditional format at Bayreuth. One small but obvious change has been to replace the Festival Handbook with individual programmes for each work. Another was to introduce performances designed for children, the first being a cut-down performance of the Flying Dutchman lasting one hour. All 10 performances were sold out.

The New York Times of June 19, 2009, reported that the German government has pledged about US$700,000 to renovate Wagner's Bayreuth home, now a museum, Wahnfried. The money will come from an economic stimulus package for improving infrastructure. 'Sven Friedrich, the director of the Richard Wagner Museum, told The A.P. that the renovation would include new exhibitions on the composer's life and the role of the Wagner family during the Nazi era.'

Rheintochter dreaming

The current Opera Australia production of Aida has a permanent body of water (the Nile) located across the front of the stage. It's around 5 or 6 inches deep, and a foot wide, and characters dip their limbs languidly, splash, paddle, and even swim in it. Simple, but very effective. I kept wondering whether the same simple idea could be used for another river"¦.

Membership renewals

Thank you again to those members who have renewed your membership for 2009. I apologise that because we no longer send membership cards and receipts for renewals, some of you are uncertain whether or not you've renewed your membership for 2009. For the avoidance of doubt, we're publishing a list of all those who have renewed up to 31 August 2009 in this issue, and in future we'll publish the names of renewing members in the next issue after their renewal, along with the new members and donations.

Ring Cycle in Melbourne 2012

As I mentioned in our last issue, there has been no more hard news about the Ring Cycle in Melbourne in 2012, which has been made possible through the generosity of 'Lonely Planet' publishing co-founder Maureen Wheeler. The adage that no news in good news, if true, would mean that we can expect an announcement about the cycle soon, and that's what I'm hoping for.

If Mr Terracini is able to add the Ring operas to the repertoire of Opera Australia, we may see, as in the film Deliverance, duelling Ring Cycles in Sydney and Melbourne.

Flying Dutchman in Adelaide in November

There are still seats available for performances of the Flying Dutchman in Adelaide on 7, 10, 12 and 14 November. The cast is John Wegner (Dutchman), Margaret Medlyn (Senta), Stuart Skelton (Erik) and Daniel Sumegi (Daland), and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Nicholas Braithwaite with a new production directed by Chris Drummond, with set and lighting designs by Geoff Cobham. The State Opera of South Australia's website says that the running time is around 3 hours, with one twenty minute interval. This is the Wagner event of 2009 in Australia which you should not miss.

Discount for Society Members

Wakefield Press is the publisher of three Wagner books edited by Peter Bassett - Parsifal, Tristan and Isolde and Nibelung's Ring. These normally retail at $34.95 each, but for members of our Society, Wakefield Press is offering the full set of three volumes for $60.00 (postage and handling inclusive).

Many of you will have collected these volumes separately over the years, but for anyone who doesn't have them this is an exceptional opportunity and a very realistic price. If you're interested, email the Society at (info at wagner hyphen nsw dot org dot au) and we'll send you a flyer / order form.

Roger Cruickshank 7 September 2009