President's Report May 2012

Letter from The President
President's Report To 2012 AGM 20 May 2012

Welcome to the second newsletter for 2012.

I think that we can all agree that the Society has had an extremely successful year over the last 12 months.

This is represented in an increased number of members, and in the excellence and diversity of our events over the year, thanks to our extremely active Events Sub-committee. And obviously, these factors are strongly inter-related.

First, our membership: at last count, we had 292 current members, 70 of whom have joined in the last 12 months. But the actual figure is much higher, because over 90 of these are shared memberships, which means that there are, in all, about 385 individual members of the Society.

As to events, I am not going to say much about the Society's events over the past year, because many of you have attended at least some of them. Amongst the many high points have been presentations relating to the Melbourne Ring, from Lyndon Terracini in October last year, and from Maureen Wheeler and Richard Mills in March this year. We have also had some wonderful musical offerings, not to mention Heath Lees' fascinating talk on Wagner's Women earlier this year.

The next 12 months also promises to provide some truly exciting events. Our program for the rest of this year has already been published, and will feature such luminaries of the opera world as John Wegner and John Pickering. And in August the Society's patron, Simone Young, will be coming to talk to us.

All of this has been organised by our Events Sub-committee, to whom we all owe a huge debt of gratitude. They are: Leona Geeves, Tony Jones, Colleen Chesterman and Katie French. Katie is not standing for re-election to the committee, and I would like to record my own and the Society's sincere thanks for all that she has done in the past 12 month, as an active member of the Committee, and particularly of the Events sub-committee.

2013, of course, will be a standout year for all Wagnerians, being the bicentenary of the Master's birth. We are organising some major events to celebrate the occasion. Current proposals feature the following events:

A Wagnerian concert, probably to be held in March 2013, featuring the Sydney Youth Orchestra and Lisa Gasteen;
The Sydney Chamber Opera will be putting on a new chamber opera, which will in effect be an adaptation of parts of Act 11 of Parsifal; this promises to be absolutely fascinating;
The Society will be sponsoring 2 MBS FM in playing all ten of Wagner's mature operas; and
On the actual birthday, on Wednesday 22 May, we will be organising a full-scale celebratory dinner in the evening, at a venue which is yet to be determined.We would welcome suggestions as to an appropriate venue for the occasion.
All of this, of course, costs money. We have a reasonable amount in our donations fund, but we will need quite a lot more in order to achieve our objectives over the next year or so. I would request that any of you who have any ideas as to how we can raise funds for these projects, please get in touch with me or with one of the other committee members. We would greatly appreciate your suggestions.

The high point of 2013 will undoubtedly be the three Ring Cycles in Melbourne in November/December, which promises to be a truly extraordinary event. Indeed, the May edition of "Opera Now" contains an assessment of the 5 best Rings on offer in 2013: a year which will be positively bulging with Ring Cycles around the world. The five are: Berlin's co-production with La Scala, Milan; Frankfurt; Seattle; Paris......and MELBOURNE. No mention of Bayreuth!!

Speaking of the Melbourne Ring, there was so much enthusiasm amongst our members to support the Ring and to obtain good seats, that we raised a total of $42,000 in donations for Opera Australia. This means that your Society is now not only the proud sponsor of Deborah Humble, who will be singing both Erda and Waltraute, but also of a Wagner tuba.....which will have to be specially made for the occasion. We are hoping that Debbie Humble will be able to come to Sydney and entertain us during rehearsal time, but I'm not so sure about the Wagner tuba!

There are many thanks I would like to make. First, to the extremely active committee, which has worked so hard over the past year. The amount of energy which has been generated is truly amazing. You would be staggered at the number of emails which swing between committee members. We are losing two of our members today. I have already mentioned Katie French. The other one is our long-standing vice-president, Julian Block, who has put so much into the Society over such a long period. We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

The other office-bearers have been incredible, as have the committee members. I must particularly mention the other vice-president, Terence Watson, who has done such an impressive job of editing and putting out our newsletter on a regular basis. And I am still in awe of the time and energy that Roger Cruickshank has put into the Society over the years. I had absolutely no idea, when I took over as President last year, of the amount of work that was involved. Believe me, it takes a great deal of your time. And I have had the benefit of a much expanded committee to assist me. How Roger did it I still do not know. And he continues to put a huge amount or work and wisdom into the Society's affairs. I don't like to think of where the Society would be now without Roger Cruickshank.

The one negative event in the past 12 months was the sudden and totally unexpected decision by the authorities at Bayreuth to cease their previous practice of allocating Festival tickets to Wagner Societies. A number of protest letters were written to the authorities by various Wagner Societies around the world. We wrote one on behalf of all Australian and New Zealand societies, and a strong letter was written on behalf of all North American societies. So far this has been to no avail, but we have not given up yet. There is a very small number of tickets available from the Friends, but this is completely inadequate to meet even a fraction of the demand from our members. So watch this space, but I have to say that it is a matter of very significant concern.

My final expression of gratitude in this report is to Renata and Herman Junker, who have generously provided the refreshments after each of our meetings. These are of an extremely high order and they wonderfully set off the stimulating presentations our Events Sub-committee has been organising.

Jane Mathews AO