Welcome to our second Newsletter for 2007. Sydney is in the depths of winter, and everyone's gaze seems to be turning to the emerging European summer and its exciting festival offerings.
On Sunday, March 18, Robert Gay gave a talk on the influences of French Grand Opera found in Wagner's works after Rienzi . Robert was (up to this time) the only person I'd met who admitted to attending a performance of Rienzi , and I often quoted his comment that it was surprising to listen to so much music only to leave the opera house with just one tune in your head, the "Allmacht'ger Vater"Â. I was therefore surprised that in the audience for his talk were two members of our Society who had also seen performances of Rienzi - Cherry Jackaman and Gaby Bremner-Moore. However, Robert's talk was not about Rienzi , but about the occurrence of defining elements of French Grand Opera, the dominant art form of that period, which are to be found in Wagner's mature works, even in Parsifal .
On Sunday, April 15, Nigel Butterley gave his second Faust talk, entitled "Faust and the Feminine"Â, which concluded his survey on the influence of the Faust story on the music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I confess that I am surprised that the Faust story, principally as told by Goethe, has had such an impact on the great cultural and artistic imaginations of the nineteenth century. Many of the story's themes may seem quaint or even slightly awkward from our perspective, finding ourselves as we do in an age where such supernatural works as Weber's Der Freischutz has been relegated to the status of family Christmas pantomime. But Nigel's talks have left us in no doubt about the breadth and seriousness of that impact and the diversity of the themes and the composers who have been influenced by them. It is difficult to name another prose work which has provided an equivalent inspiration on music over the past 200 years, perhaps reflecting the emergence of cinema as the performance art form of the age.
On Sunday, May 20 we held our AGM. Mary Haswell has retired from the position of Honorary Secretary, and I'd like to thank her again for her work with the committee, and to welcome Alan Whelan, our new secretary. All the other suspects were approved in their existing positions.
We agreed at the AGM to appoint an auditor for the 2007 accounts, and I'd like to thank Julie Carroll, who has used her good offices to secure the services of the firm of accountants Walter Turnbull to complete this work pro bono , and to extend our thanks to Executive Director, Mark Driessen, and his team at Walter Turnbull for their generous support.
We also agreed to modify our process for allocating seats to the Bayreuth Festival, which will start with the Bayreuth 2008 applications. This will allow members to state their preferred seating prices when they apply for tickets, and will ensure that members have a variety of seating locations and different Society members as their companions at each performance.
At the end of 2006, we awarded German Language Scholarships to five students from the Conservatorium of Music, to enable them to study German at the Goethe-Institut, Sydney - Catherine Bouchier, Helen Sherman, Andrew Finden, Adam Player and Matthew Thomas. The quid pro quo is that if they're available, the scholarship winners give us a recital following the AGM. Matthew was with Opera Australia in Melbourne , and Adam was unwell, so Catherine, Helen and Andrew gave a recital, accompanied by Sharolyn Kimmorley.
Catherine Bouchier has been awarded a scholarship from Opera Foundation Australia , to participate in the American Institute of Studies Summer Intensive Opera programme in Graz ( Austria ) in July. Catherine's German language scholarship this year means that she will be able to participate in the programme at a higher level because of her existing language skills.
The Opera and Arts Support Group Inc is holding a fundraising concert to support Amy Radford and Stuart Haycock, graduates of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, who are continuing their opera study at the Royal Academy of Music, London. Amy was awarded German Language Scholarships by our Society through the Goethe-Institut in 2005 and 2006, and took part in the recital at our 2006 AGM.
To help raise money for both Amy and Stuart, there will be a concert at the Paddington Uniting Church , 395 Oxford Street , Paddington, on Sunday 8 July 2007, at 2.00 pm for 2.30 pm, with associate artist Sharolyn Kimmorley. Tickets are $35, which includes drinks on arrival and drinks and sandwiches following the concert, and you can book through Opera and Arts Support Group members Robert on 9327 6069 (H) or Paul on 9386 5305 (B) 9357 2570 (H). Tickets also on sale at the door.
Here's an update on Jessica Pratt, which is taken from a number of emails Jessica sent from Rome , where she is currently based, and is studying with Renata Scotto. This year she has sung the role of Anitra in Greig's Peer Gynt , with Ashenazy conducting at the l'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, one performance of which was broadcast live on RAI 3 for which Jess received two good reviews, and in April she sang the role of Aminta in Mozart's Il Re Pastore .
In June she will sing Sofia in Rossini's Il Signor Bruschino in Rome with l'Accademia Nazionale, Daniele Abbado directing, and is currently traveling between Rome and Milan , attending courses with As.Li.Co. (Associazione Lirica e Concertistica Italiana) with whom she will sing the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor in Como , Brescia , Cremona and Pavia in October and November.
Things have been going well for Jess. She went to the semi finals of Operalia (t he world opera competition founded in 1993 by Placido Domingo) and also to Germany with Neue Stimmen (an international singing competition which aims to discover young opera singing talent ), which has lead to some work both in America and in Germany .
Jess had some trouble with her back and ended up in hospital in Riga for two weeks over Christmas and New Year. She was told that she might not walk again, and that an operation may be required (including a stay of 6 months in Riga), Thankfully her dad went over from Sydney and took her out of hospital and back to Italy where Ms Scotto had organised a doctor who has looked after many singers, and now that she is singing again he goes to all her performances. Jess's dad was able to stay with her until she was independent again, and she has made a full recovery and is now very much back at work.
If you're interested in following Jessica's fortunes overseas, she keeps her Myspace page up-to-date with details of concerts and performances - just go to www.myspace.com/jessicaprattsoprano . Watch the sound level on your computer - when you reach the site you definitely will hear "Der Holle Rache"Â from Die Zauberflote .
2007 Bayreuth Scholar
I'm delighted to report that the 2007 Bayreuth Scholar is one of our members - Warwick Fyfe! Warwick has been a member for many years, and is a devoted Wagnerian who has been able to sing a number of major roles with Opera Australia, most notable the role of the Hollander in 2004. This year Warwick is Wolfram von Eschenbach in OA's revival of Tannhauser . Warwick plans to take up his scholarship in November.
As I noted in my president's report at the AGM (published elsewhere), Richard Berkeley-Steele will be singing the role of Tannhauser in Opera Australia's revival of Elke Neidhardt's 1998 production, later this year.
The Opera Australia website now lists "two exciting talents sharing the title role: Australian Glenn Winslade and, making his Australian debut, Richard Berkeley-Steele "Â. The cast list for each performance shows both Glenn Winslade and Richard Berkeley-Steele as Tannhauser , with Glenn Winslade marked "Dates TBA"Â.
Richard Hickox CBE, who conducts the performances and is Opera Australia's musical director, is also musical director of the St Endellion summer festival, which this year is performing Tannhauser , its first Wagner opera, with Richard Berkeley-Steele in the title role, and Susan Bullock. In his Director's Letter, Hickox writes " Tannhauser is the obvious choice among Wagner's operas, as it is the one that was left unfinished. Because Wagner was adding and subtracting material right up to the end, we can make a number of authentic cuts to the Paris version and bring the performance down to the length of a typical St Endellion concert."Â Let's hope that Mr Hickox's surgical desires don't extend to his Opera Australia performances! Off-stage, Ms Neidhardt's 1998 production was enlivened by a dispute with the conductor, Philippe Auguin, and this year I was hoping that all the drama would be on-stage.
On Sunday 12 August, as part of this year's Proms in London , the four-year Proms Ring cycle reaches its climax with a concert performance of Gotterdammerung , with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Singers and Chorus under San Fran cisco Opera's Donald Runnicles. It features Christine Brewer as Brunnhilde, Stig Andersen as Siegfried and Sir John Tomlinson as Hagen , in a concert staging by Paul Curran, who is also a member of our Society. Those of you who are going to the third cycle at Bayreuth this year will have the opportunity to meet Paul, who obtained tickets in last year's ballot. Paul has offered to give an informal talk to members of our Society when they are in Bayreuth , on his experience of current opera production in Europe . [Please see below a note on Paul's production at the Mariinsky Opera Company's of Tosca - Editor]
Bruce Martin's Wagner CD
In the March Newsletter, I mentioned that Bruce Martin was recording a selection of Wagner items with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra under Simone Young. Recording was scheduled to start on 10 July, but Elisabeth Turner, the Classical Artist and Repertoire Consultant to Universal Music Australia , has advised by email that "sadly Bruce Martin has had a freak accident and cracked 3 ribs in his back. The recording is therefore postponed. We don't know as yet when it can be made, it depends on Simone Young's availability. It will possibly only happen in July of next year."Â Elizabeth will be in touch again when they have a definite date. If necessary, you can contact Elizabeth by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Normally the 2008 Bayreuth application form would be included in our September Newsletter. This has meant in the past that members who are away in September lodge late applications, so that they're not part of the process but rely on being the beneficiaries of another's misfortune after the initial ballot. This year we're giving all members the chance to apply early to avoid disappointment.
I would encourage members to take advantage of the Newsletter to air your views, review Wagner performances, books or recordings, ask questions, share tips and hints on accommodation or places to visit in Wagnerian cities, or just to take the Editor to task!
13 June 2007