President's Report September 2012

Letter from the President September 2012

It has been an exciting time for us Wagner lovers. First, our patron, Simone Young somehow managed to fit us into an incredibly busy schedule, and was the star of our last function, on 12 August. An unprecedented number attended the event - over 140 - including a quite a few non-members, some of whom joined the Society on the spot. The first part of the meeting consisted of an interview between Francis Merson and Maestra Young (I refuse to call her "Maestro," so henceforth she will be "Simone"). Francis is the editor of Limelight Magazine, and he asked a number of interesting questions about Simone's background and her future plans. Simone, who was amazingly relaxed, given her other commitments, gave very full responses about her musical experiences, and spoke in an extremely frank and sometimes self-deprecating manner. We were treated to a number of anecdotes from her life, delivered with great humour. Some of them are described in detail later in this newsletter. As to her future plans, she is committed to remain in Hamburg until the end of the 2015 season, at which time she proposes to do freelance work. By then both her daughters will have finished school, so that her husband, Greg, will be free to travel with her.

During the last part of the session Simone took questions from the floor, and was extremely generous with her answers. She gave a fascinating exposition of how she suggested a newcomer should approach the Ring. In the process, she pointed out - something I had never thought of before - that the opera Siegfried is a series of duets. And she was, as always, absolutely correct: when one thinks about it, there is not a single scene in the entire opera which has more than two participants.

I had (foolishly) thought that I knew a reasonable amount about Simone's past, but I was stupefied at some of her achievements, not to mention the illustrious musicians she has worked with closely over the years. She remains, incidentally, the only woman ever to have conducted a full Ring Cycle, and by now she has conducted quite a few!

All in all, it was an exceptional afternoon.

And the treats least, they did so for the many Sydneysiders who went to Brisbane where Simone conducted her Hamburg orchestra in two concert performances of Das Rheingold, with a Mahler 2nd symphony ("the Resurrection") thrown in for good measure. Simone conducted the orchestra (comprising well over 100 players) in thrilling performances which brought the entire audience to its feet at the end. The soloists are described later in this Newsletter, but I have to mention the Wotan, Falk Struckmann, who in my opinion is amongst the greatest Wotans singing today. The cast was the same as many of us saw in Hamburg, except for the Fricka and the Alberich, both of whom have moved onto other roles. Our own Deborah Humble was a superb Erda. Members will remember that our Society is sponsoring Deborah in the Melbourne Ring, where she will be singing both Erda and Waltraute, and will therefore be singing in all four operas.

STOP PRESS 1: On 12 August a capacity audience of Members and guests met our Patron, Simone Young AO. A large group went north to hear the Hamburg Opera Orchestra and cast of Das Rheingold in two sensational performances.

STOP PRESS 2: Sydney Symphony announces two concert performances of Der fliegende Hollander, starring Eric Owens (Alberich in the current Metropolitan Opera Ring Cycle) with conductor-designate David Robertson, Amber Wagner, John Daszak and Sally-Anne Russell among others.

Between the two Rheingolds there was a full-day Rheingold Symposium at the Brisbane Conservatorium, comprising many very interesting presentations. Simone gave a fascinating talk in which, amongst other things, she compared the operatic forces available in Hamburg, a medium-sized German provincial town, with those available to Opera Australia. OA has 68 full-time orchestral players and 40 choristers, while Hamburg has 128 and 70 respectively. Hamburg, with its repertory system, performs about 33 operas each year. New productions then remain in the repertoire, and can be revived at any time in the future. The difference, of course, lies in the available funding for the arts. Would that we could approach the German model! Katie French has written a full report later in this Newsletter.

Bayreuth Tickets for 2013

We are continuing in our endeavours to persuade the Bayreuth Festival authorities to resume allocating tickets to Wagner Societies. Indeed, our Treasurer, Dennis Mather, and I went to Bayreuth for the day when we were in Munich for the Ring Cycle. We had lunch with Frau Besser-Eichler, the head of the Friends of Bayreuth. She is very sympathetic to the Wagner Societies, but is unfortunately only one voice amongst several. We cannot afford to be optimistic about the outcome. We certainly know that there will be no such allocations for the 2013 festival. However we will continue to receive a small allocation from the Friends of Bayreuth. Accordingly, there are two principal ways in which members can apply for 2013 festival tickets. First, members can apply for tickets directly from the Bayreuth box office, either by post or through the internet (postal and internet addresses are set out below). Applications must be received by 20 October 2012. Secondly, members can apply for tickets from the Society's allocation from the Friends of Bayreuth, in the same way as they have in the past.

Wagner 2013 Bicentenary Donation Appeal

2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner and will be a significant international musical occasion. The Wagner Society hopes to pledge major support for the 2013 Wagner Bicentenary Celebrations. To achieve this, we have set up a 'Wagner 2013 Fund' and we need your support to help make this possible.

Making a donation to the 'Wagner 2013 Fund' will ensure the Society's contributions to the celebrations will be world class. We are considering a number of possible exciting projects. One of them involves supporting a major international artist participating in Opera Australia's Ring performances in November and December 2013. We will also continue to promote the life and works of Richard Wagner through performances and events in Sydney. STOP Donations are fully tax-deductible and can be made by cheque or money order by direct debit; details of the Society's bank account and postal address are given below.

Jane Mathews AO