President's Report March 2003

Dear Members

Welcome back after what I hope has been a safe and restful New Year break.

Elke Neidhardt

At our November 2002 function, Elke Neidhardt answered questions about her 2004 production of the Ring in Adelaide, and gave us an insight into the process of direction an opera. (Terence Watson's review is elsewhere in this issue.) Ms Neidhardt began by challenging us with a question of her own - why do Wagner Societies exist, and why do their members hold views with such passion? After all, she suggested, Wagner was not the greatest composer that ever lived - most would accept that Mozart or Beethoven had more right to that title - and yet these composers do not attract such militant bands of devotees. To us, of course, the question is rhetorical and slightly bemusing - how can anyone who has experienced Wagner's music not be passionate about it?

End of year party, and "Friends"

Our last function in 2002 was our annual end-of-year party, at which we honoured six members as "Friends of the Wagner Society in NSW". They are Sue Kelly (member number 4), Janet Wayland (10), Clare Hennessy (19), Margaret Hennessy (19A), Barbara Brady (380) and Shirley Robertson (416). We sometimes forget that our Society exists today through the hard work, commitment and loyalty of our "Friends", and the committee determined to formally acknowledge this by introducing these awards, which we hope to make annually.

Hildegard Perini and Amana Finlay

I regret to report that two of our members, Hildegard Perini and Amana Finlay, have passed away. Hilde joined the Society in February 1985, and although frail regularly came to our functions. Barbara McNulty attended her funeral on behalf of members.

Wagner performances in Australia in 2003

Looking ahead, there are three major Wagner highlights in 2003. In Perth in February, there were two performances of Gà ¶tterdämmerung which were the centrepiece of the 50th Perth International Arts Festival. (My review is elsewhere in this issue.) In Sydney on March 27 and 29, Edo de Waart will give his last Wagner concert as chief conductor and artistic director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the "Ride of the Valkyries", and in July Simone Young will conduct a re-staged Meistersinger at the Capitol Theatre, which will be her farewell Wagner work as musical director of Opera Australia.

The Society has given donations to each of these events - $2,000 for the Perth Gà ¶tterdämmerung, $2,000 for the SSO's Wagner gala, and $3,000 for OA's Meistersinger.

2003 membership renewals and Society functions and theatre bookings

As a result of changes to our rules at our last AGM, in 2003 we are changing our financial and membership year to a calendar year. As part of that changeover, membership renewals in 2003 will be for 9 months only, from 1 April to 31 December 2003, and therefore the cost of renewing your membership will be three quarters of the previous annual membership fee.

Your 2003 membership renewal form is on the inside back cover of this issue of the Newsletter. Please complete it and mail it with your cheque or money order to the address shown on the form. You can also use this form to book tickets for our annual Wagner Birthday function on Friday 23 May, for our joint Meistersinger seminar with the Art Gallery of NSW on Sunday 7 June, and for our seminar and group booking for Meistersinger on Saturday 5 July; details are below.

We are going to use the inside back cover of the Newsletter more and more for forms like this, instead of posting them separately to each of you. We hope that this will reduce our administration costs and allow us to use your membership fees and donations more effectively in supporting the Society's aims, with our donations to local Wagner performances, our support of the Bayreuth Scholarship, and our regular functions and seminars.

From 2004, memberships will be for a full calendar year.

Friday 23 May - commemorative dinner for Wagner's birthday

In 2003 we commemorate both the 190th anniversary of Wagner's birth in Leipzig on 22 May 1813, and the 120th anniversary of his death in Venice on 13 February 1883.

This year to commemorate his birth, we are having a dinner at the Women's Club on level 4, 179 Elizabeth Street, Sydney 2000 on Friday 23 May at 6pm for 6.30pm. Our guest speaker will be Bill Gillespie, OAM, the general manager of the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Bill was formerly the director of the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and was Artistic Director of the 1998 Adelaide Ring. The cost per place for a 3-course dinner plus wine is $66, and you can book for this using the form on the inside back cover of this Newsletter.

Saturday 7 June - Meistersinger Seminar at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

The Art Gallery of NSW and the Wagner Society are jointly organising a Meistersinger seminar on Saturday 7 June. There will be four speakers, including Antony Ernst and art historian Arthur Lawrence, whose talk is entitled "Glories of Nuremberg through the rose-tinted spectacles of German romanticism and the effect on Wagner". The seminar starts in the Art Gallery theatre with registration and morning tea at 10am, and finishes at 3.30pm.

The cost, including morning tea and lunch, is $50 for members and $55 for non-members, and you can book using the form on the inside back cover of this Newsletter. Further information will be available closer to the date in the June Newsletter and on our website.

Saturday 5 July - Seminar and Theatre group for Meistersinger

We have reserved 60 A-reserve tickets to the performance of Meistersinger on Saturday 5 July in the Capitol Theatre, starting at 4pm. These tickets are $165 for members, which is a discount of $30 on the normal full price.

Prior to the performance, we are organising a joint seminar in conjunction with a theatre group from the Wagner Society of New Zealand, which is attending the same performance. The group from New Zealand will be led by that Society's president, Professor Heath Lees, who will be the main speaker at the seminar. Those of you who attended a similar seminar prior to a performance of Tannhäuser in 1998 will remember Professor Lees as very knowledgeable and fascinating presenter.

"The seminar will begin at 10am at the State Library in Macquarie Street and finish at 2pm, giving ample time to get to the Capitol Theatre by 4pm. The cost, including lunch, is $35, and you can book using the form on the inside back cover of the Newsletter. Further information on the venue and seminar program will be available closer to the date in the June Newsletter and on our website."

Sponsorship of the Adelaide Ring in 2004

A number of roles in the 2004 Adelaide do not have sponsors. Currently, we have agreed to donate $10,000 to sponsor Stuart Skelton in the role of Siegmund, but we would like to be able to further support the State Opera of South Australia by sponsoring another major artist. If you are interested in helping us raise money for this, please consider making an appropriate donation to the Society when you renew your membership. Remember, all donations over $2 are tax deductible, and are receipted and acknowledged in our Newsletter.

2003 promises to be an interesting year, although a sad one with the double farewells of Simone Young and Edo de Waart. We will have to wait and see whether their successors have the same passion and commitment to Wagner and his music as Young and De Waart.

Roger Cruickshank 
22 February 2003