President's Report Number 1 2013

Letter from the President:

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2013.

This is to be a very big year for Wagner lovers the world over. On 22 May 1813, in Leipzig, Johanna Wagner gave birth to her ninth child, a boy initially baptised as Wilhelm Richard. Who was to know that this boy was to become one of the great musical geniuses of all time, and that by the time he died nearly 70 years later, he would have changed the face of opera in particular, and music in general?

It is barely possible to count the number of Wagner festivals and/or Ring Cycles to be performed at various places in the world this year. It would certainly not be possible to attend all of them, no matter how dedicated a Wagnerian one was. And we in Australia are doing our bit, with the three Melbourne Ring Cycles at the end of the year, and the concert performance of The Flying Dutchman in Sydney in July.

As most of you will know, the Society conducted a Ring workshop on 9 and 10 February at the conference centre attached to the Willoughby Uniting Church. 180 people attended, most of them being members of the Society. It turned out to be an excellent venue, with plenty of space for the participants, both in the lecture room itself and in the adjoining foyers where we repaired during the breaks. The full title of the workshop was: "Forging Meaning out of Music: Heritage, Complexity and Vision of the Ring." It was presented by Dr Antony Ernst and introduced by Lyndon Terracini Artistic Director of Opera Australia. To describe it as a spectacular success would be an understatement. Antony was on his feet - literally - for well over ten hours over the two days. He provided amazing insights into the Ring Cycle and its background, which were entirely new to many of us, but which, the moment he pointed them out , seemed so obvious. Similarly, he made connections within the various Ring operas of which many of us had never thought. Moreover, he did all of this without recourse to any notes. The whole workshop was delivered on an apparently completely impromptu basis. His delivery was always clear, and was laced with some wonderful anecdotes and a great deal of humour. At the end he received a lengthy standing ovation - something I had never previously seen at a seminar or workshop of this nature. Our only regret is that it was not recorded. And given that Antony spoke without recourse to notes, there is now no complete record of the event. I took a number of notes, and my summary of Antony's presentation is set out later in this newsletter.

Having started on such a high note, we have a great deal to live up to during the course of this year. I am confident that we will maintain the extremely high standard that has now been set. A full list of our forthcoming events and concerts is set out later in this newsletter. As you can see, a major centrepiece will be our birthday dinner on the evening of 22nd May. It would be very helpful if we could get an idea as to the number of people who would like to attend this dinner. If you would like to come, I would be most grateful if you would email the Society through the website email address, indicating your interest, and saying how many people will probably be attending with you.

At our next meeting, on 10 March, Louis Garrick and Jack Symonds of Sydney Chamber Opera will be telling us about their forthcoming opera "Climbing towards Midnight", based on the relationship between Parsifal and Kundry. The Society has been offered 20 free seats for the first night of the opera on 15 April, and we are proposing to allocate them to members who attend the next meeting and win them in a "draw". So if you are interested in going to the opera (which I think sounds fascinating), I strongly suggest you come to the meeting on 10 March.

I do not like to end this letter on a downward note, but I am afraid that the news from Bayreuth is not good. It now turns out that the German government, which is the major sponsor of the festival, has insisted that ticket allocations to Wagner Societies should cease. Why it has taken the authorities so long to pass on this news, and why we were originally given grounds for optimism, remains a mystery. But unless something unexpected happens in the future, it would seem that we will no longer be receiving tickets from the Bayreuth box office. The Friends of Bayreuth have allocated us two tickets to all seven operas this year, and there is every reason to expect that this pattern will continue indefinitely.

I wish you all a very happy, healthy and contented Wagner bicentenary.

Jane Mathews

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