President's Report June 2014

Welcome to the second Quarterly for 2014. 2014 is, for obvious reasons, a quieter year than was last year. Nevertheless, we have some very special events planned for the year. We have already started on a high note. After our first event, involving cast members from the Melbourne Ring, we had meetings in March and April consisting of fascinating expositions from the two Dr Davids: Dr David Schwartz talking about family dysfunction in the Wagner clan, and Dr David Larkin talking about the two Richards: Wagner and Strauss. These talks are described in detail later in this quarterly, so I will not go into them here, except to say that the personal feedback from members who attended the functions was, on both occasions, full of unmitigated enthusiasm.

On 25 May, we had the Society’s Annual General Meeting, which was attended by a number of members. The President’s report was, I am afraid, considerably shorter than usual, as I had returned from overseas only the day before. But I gave a brief description of our activities in 2013, many of which were, not surprisingly, geared towards the Melbourne Ring at the end of the year. The Society’s financial statements for 2013 were approved. They show the Society to be in a very solid financial position. No controversial issues were raised at the meeting, and all the items on the agenda were passed without dissent. As to the committee for the coming year, we have one new committee member: Barbara de Rome, in the place of Paulo Montoya. And Mike Day has replaced Paulo as secretary for this year. I would like to record my thanks to Paulo for his contributions to the Society.

Immediately after the AGM we were treated to a wonderful recital by bass baritone Christopher Richardson and lyric tenor Matthew Reardon, accompanied by virtuoso pianist David Curtain. Your society had sponsored Christopher to attend the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School in December last year, an experience that he described as “transformational” and “career-changing”. It was also the first time that we have had duets included in a recital for the Society – a welcome innovation. After the musical performances, we enjoyed a special afternoon tea with champagne and wine, to celebrate the Master’s 201st birthday three days earlier.

Many members might not know about it - I didn’t before becoming President of the Society – but there is an International Association of Wagner Societies, generally known as the “Verband”. We have long belonged to it, but it has become extremely German-centric over the years. It holds annual Congresses, in Germany or Austria, but only accredited representatives of Wagner Societies can attend and vote. Until very recently, these congresses were held only in the German language. It offers nothing to its members – no activities other than the annual congresses – and has never operated as a linking organisation, so as to give member societies information about each other’s activities etc. To continue our membership this year would have involved paying a fee of 2 Euros per member, a total of approximately $1,000. Accordingly, we followed many other international societies, including the New York Wagner Society, and discontinued our membership. I have recently met with representatives of the UK and Southern Californian Wagner Societies, who are seeking election to the board of the Verband in an endeavour to make it more relevant for international societies. If they succeed, and the Verband appears to be becoming a truly international organisation, particularly one which provides a link between individual Wagner Societies, I have told them that we, the NSW Society, would be more than happy to re-join the organisation.

Finally I should again mention the Arthur Rackham books. They are quite exceptional, and I would be amazed if there was not some member who would covet them. I will bring them to the next Society event so that members can see for themselves how special they are.

Jane Mathews 
The Hon Justice Jane Mathews AO 
President Wagner Society in New South Wales