This year started on a very positive note with a most interesting talk by Anthony Ernst on the first two of the completed Wagner works, Die Feen and Das Liebesverbot. Anthony always brings a new look to each of his talks and this was no exception. It was informative and interesting and everyone I spoke to felt they should investigate these neglected operas further. In preparing my pre-performance talks for the tour to Berlin in March I checked to see if I could find recent performances and was delighted to find that Die Feen had been done in Sardinia in 1998 and that there had been three performances of Das Liebesverbot in Germany in February this year.
In mid March I took 39 Wagner lovers to Berlin to hear the ten mature Wagnerian works performed in chronological order at the Staatsoper unter den Linden. All the operas were directed by Harry Kupfer and conducted by Daniel Barenboim and it was a most challenging and enjoyable fifteen days.
Berlin was still very cold when we arrived and on our tours of East and West Berlin we had to brave snow showers each time we left the bus. Fortunately, after a few days the sun returned and as the weather warmed up the trees started to get their leaves and the city suddenly softened and blossomed.
We had a talk on each opera on the morning of its performance and then a discussion on the one we had seen the night before. The group were all extremely interested in what we had seen and the discussion was very lively particularly when the production was as provocative as the Lohengrin. The only thing I will tell you is that we had the pleasure of hearing Stuart Skelton sing Erik in Dutchman which he did very well and then to our delight he was called in to sing Lohengrin and we had an opportunity to meet him after the performance. However I will leave John Casey to tell you all about our experiences at the Birthday Lunch in May.
It was somewhat of a surprise to find that there was a huge Australian representation in Berlin for the Festival. According to Leo Schofield there were at least 98 of us and on our last night, after Parsifal, Leo arranged a venue where we all met for a drink. It was very crowded and very noisy but great fun.
Before going to Berlin I spent a week in Dresden and had the opportunity to visit the Wagner Museum at Graupa, a small village near Pillnitz about 14km South East of Dresden. The Museum is housed in an old farmhouse where Wagner and Minna spent their holidays in the summer of 1846 and it is here that Wagner wrote the music for Lohengrin. The museum is small but most interesting and the Curator, who showed us around, was extremely knowledgeable. If ever you are in Dresden it is well worth a visit.
Also in Dresden we were fortunate to see an interesting performance of Tristan at the beautiful Semper Operhaus, produced by Marco Arturo Marelli. The Tristan of Ronald Hamilton was a little disappointing but Gabriele Schnaut was a wonderful Isolde and the rest of the cast were good. It was conducted by Mark Albrecht who did a very good job and who stepped in at the last minute as they had lost two other conductors in almost as many days!
We also saw three wonderful Strauss works, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten and am convinced that the forthcoming Ring Cycles next year will be worth the trip. I have seen a lot of opera in Dresden and it is always of a very high standard and visually attractive so I am looking forward to next March/ April.
Just before I left, Dennis Mather and I met with Dr Roland Goll, the Director of the Goethe Institut, to talk about ways in which we could co-operate in a program to precede the 2004 Adelaide Ring and we will keep you informed of our plans.
I am pleased to tell you that the Committee has agreed to donate $10,000 towards the Adelaide Ring and we will sponsor Stuart Skelton who is to sing Siegmund and, because of this, members of the society are eligible for priority seating at the Cycle of their choice. In this issue of the Newsletter you will find an application form for tickets to Adelaide. No money is required at this time but in order to receive priority booking our application must be in Adelaide by early July.
I shall think of you all in May when you meet for the Birthday Lunch as I shall be in America on my way home after the Sydney Symphony Tour but I look forward to seeing you in July at the AGM when Francis Greep, last year's Bayreuth Scholar, will arrange a recital for us.