President's Report September 2010

A letter to members

Welcome to our third Newsletter for 2010.

Barbara McNulty

Members and friends of our Society would have been saddened by the news of Barbara McNulty's death on 31 July. My thanks to our editor, Dr Terence Watson, for compiling the fine tribute and obituary which appears in this Newsletter.

From a personal viewpoint, my fondest memories of Barbara came during the latter period of her presidency of the Society, when we dealt with the difficult consequences of fraud by a longstanding and trusted committee member. I have no doubt that our Society's survival at that time was due to Barbara's personal integrity. Although that matter should have ended when we were advised that criminal proceedings would not be initiated because of the age and poor health of the individual concerned, unhappily for our Society I believe that it also led to Barbara's early retirement from the presidency.

Even in the most difficult moments during this period, Barbara's eyes would suddenly flash and she would deliver a comment which would have us both in stitches. It's her keen wit and unexpected 'naughtiness', as well as her warmth and charm, which I'll cherish.

When Barbara asked me to join the committee, I was sure that it was because I was relatively young and able-bodied (by our members' standards), could still move the furniture when required, and even occasionally win a battle with technology. When I teased Barbara about this she confirmed that it had always been my body and not my brain which made me such a perfect candidate for the committee.

Once, when we sat together for a performance of L'elisir d'amour (the production with fake corrugated iron sheep on wheels), Barbara warned me that as she didn't often attend the opera with a male handbag, there could be comment on the platform. Sure enough, we were approached by several of her acquaintances who said 'And this must be your son!' After that I took to calling her 'Mother' and she would respond 'My son, my son' (because, apparently, there was enough of me to make two sons.) Barbara rarely left a performance early, no matter how vile, and we drained this insufferable Elixir to the last drop. (I would much rather have repaired to 'Aria' for solace and soufflà © but stayed instead with Barbara.) I didn't believe her when she said that it was 'character-building'.

She bore adversity with humour. After the operation which removed a third toe, Barbara delighted in telling the story of one of her grandsons, who presented her with a copy of the Seven Times Table which he'd written out to help her in her reduced mathematical circumstances.

Trite to say, we chiefly know the people we know, through the events and circumstances we have shared with them. When those who gathered to mourn Barbara's passing shared their stories at the wake, there were tales of the Barbara I hadn't known, as well as the Barbara I had. We were all diminished by her passing.

Opera Australia to stage the Armfield Ring in Melbourne in 2013

Donner's hammer has swung and driven away the cloud of rumours surrounding Opera Australia's forthcoming Ring Cycle in Melbourne in Spring, 2013. To milk this metaphor even further, we must now wait three years to see what magic Neil Armfield's Froh can weave from these vapours.

There are numerous questions surrounding the planning and announcements for this event, not least being the unavailability of Simone Young for the project. It has been suggested that the change from the more gradual 'one opera a year' plan which co-sponsor Houston Grand Opera will follow, to the more exciting but fraught Adelaide-style 'big bang' approach, meant that Ms Young would not be available because she is already fully committed in 2013.

1998, 2004 and now 2013. It has been a long time between drinks.

Roger Cruickshank

7 September 2010