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Newsletter Vol.21 No.2 July 2017
In this edition we include details about a number of upcoming performances of Wagner operas or those involving musicians who have a good Wagnerian pedigree. Summer music is special and restorative when combined with meeting friends and family and enjoying a meal and a bottle of fizz!
Summer has always been the time for festivals. My dictionary tells me that the word derives from the Latin for ‘feast’ and that suggests a time of the year where due to natural abundance, feasting is possible. The annual celebrations in Bayreuth take place in summer and are termed a ‘Festspiel’ which translates directly to our word. Given the undoubted richness and amount of Wagner’s music, his operas seem well suited to being celebrated in festivals rather than in some mid-winter time of scarcity. Inspirational music can of course be heard at Bayreuth, Edinburgh, Glyndebourne and the rest.
Mention has to be made here about the wonderful success of our own Catriona Morison, who recently won the very highly prestigious ‘Cardiff Singer of the World’. For those of us who watched the final, Catriona showed everyone the marvellous range and colour of her voice and the emotional depth that went with it. Also, a few years ago, Catriona enjoyed great success with the Scottish Sinfonia at St. Cuthberts’s Church in an electrifying performance of the Wesendonck Lieder. Those of us who heard her then knew that a great future in singing was around the corner and we all hope she will realise her undoubted potential as a Wagner singer.
In this edition we include details about a number of upcoming performances of Wagner operas or those involving musicians who have a good Wagnerian pedigree. Summer music is special and restorative when combined with meeting friends and family and enjoying a meal and a bottle of fizz! So, if you have not yet signed up for a summer festival this year, (it may be too late), make sure you do something next year to enjoy the ‘feast’ that will be available to you and those like us who love music in all its forms and Wagner’s operas in particular.
With not a spare seat in the house for this special meeting of the Wagner Society of Scotland, the workshop started with the presentation of the 2016 Carole Rees Award for Advanced Musical Studies to the young Scottish bass-baritone Donald Thomson, and the announcement that Jonathan Stoughton is the 2017 Winner of that Award.
Fresh from her coaching sessions with Dame Anne Evans, Scottish soprano Cara McHardy was covering Brünnhilde and so was able to provide an opening bonus in the form of Im Treibhaus from the Wesendonk Lieder, that study for Tristan und Isolde which she had performed a couple of weeks earlier at Longborough with Anthony Negus.
Jonathan and Donald sang through the scene in which Fafner and Siegfried exchange insults and which ends in Siegfried dispatching the dragon with his sword. Malcolm Rivers then conducted a masterclass with Donald on the Fafner elements of this scene. Kelvin Lim doing his accompanist’s job which included his heroic singing of Siegfried’s bits himself, as required. Jonathan Stoughton closed the first half with a wonderful rendition of the sword-forging scene from Siegfried. His performance of this piece provided a memorable highlight of Saffron Opera’s recent production of Siegfried in which Donald Thomson had made his debut in the role of Fafner.
Kelvin Lim summoned the audience back from the interval with a characteristically virtuoso rendering of Siegfried’s Rhine Journey. Members were about to witness soprano Lee Bisset’s first public rehearsal of the final Act of Siegfried. Although she and Jonathan would be meeting for the first time to sing this piece together, one would have been convinced that they had been working on it together for weeks. The audience lost all sense of “rehearsal” whilst Lee, Jonny and Kelvin meshed wonderfully together to deliver what amounted to a performance of the highest order.
A longer version of this article is available on the website.
The International Association of Wagner Societies (RWVI) unites some 130 Associations around the world. It was founded in 1909 but “internationalised” in 1991 to render all Wagner Societies around the world eligible for membership. The purpose of the RWVI mirrors our own, namely to promote and deepen the understanding of Richard Wagner's works and provide support for the next generation of artists through the Richard-Wagner-Stipendienstiftung (Richard Wagner Scholarship Foundation) founded at the Composer’s behest, to which this Society sends a Scholar every year. The RWVI also works to ensure the continued success of the Bayreuth Festival.
The official function of Congress is its Annual General Meeting of Delegates at which Verband matters are discussed, attended this year by representatives of some 45 Societies including myself representing the Wagner Society of Scotland. Of the four day congress, the Delegates’ Meeting occupied only one morning, complemented by various other events and Wagner-related performances. There was an outstanding performance of Parsifal under the direction of Adam Fischer in the Bartók Béla National Concert Hall. Although billed as a “concert or semi-staged” performance, it was in effect fully-staged with a wonderfully simple but mesmerising production, making full use of the available space with the principals directed over the concert stage and the chorus occupying, as appropriate, the choir stalls and organ loft. Singing was universally good to excellent and the simplicity of the production did not distract from the faultless music provided by the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Choir and Children’s’ Choir (augmented by the Hungarian National Choir). This was without doubt one of the most moving performances of Parsifal I have ever experienced.
The other opera presentation was an excellent double bill of Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Mario and the Magician by the contemporary Hungarian composer János Vajda in the ornate State Opera House. I had not heard of Vajda, far less his 1988 adaptation of the Thomas Mann story but this production formed an intriguing prelude to a stunning performance of Bluebeard’s Castle. The Hungarian State Opera Orchestra was conducted by Janós Kovács.
Congresses are also an opportunity for the hosts to show off the local cuisine and Budapest did not disappoint. There are always a number of excursions arranged and Budapest has much to offer the visitor by way of sightseeing, museums, history and of course its famous café culture of coffee-and-cake! Congress closed with a recital by students from the Liszt Ferenc Musikakademie in the Solti György Kammersaal, followed by a sumptuous buffet in the garden of Restaurant Gundel. Congress next year will be at Innsbruck on 21 – 24 June 2018 and will include a performance of Rienzi and an excursion to Erl attending a rehearsal of Götterdämmerung. I have Brochures and Booking Forms which can also be downloaded from the RWVI website –
A longer version of this article is available on the website
Volunteers are required to fill the following essential posts that will become vacant during this year.
Dale Bilsland announced at the recent AGM that he will not be seeking election as Chair at the 2017 AGM. A replacement is needed to assume the Chair at the AGM in December.
We require an Independent Examiner to scrutinise the Society accounts prior to submission to the Annual General Meeting in 2017 and as part of our OSCR Annual Return. The person need not be a member of the Society, but cannot be a member of the Committee, and should have some facility with financial accounts.
These are essential posts for the future functioning of the Society and to fulfil our obligations as a Registered Charity. Volunteers please!!!
We also need a member to organise our Annual Study Weekend at Gartmore in September each year. This involves receiving bookings from members and co-ordinating our booking and requirements with Gartmore House Hotel. This will take effect from the 2018 course but the new organiser ideally should work with Nadine Harrison who is organising 2017.
Anyone prepared to support the Society and give something back to it in exchange for all the pleasure it gives you should contact Dale Bilsland.
All Wagner Society of Scotland events (except 3rd December) start at 7.30pm at Edinburgh Society of Musicians, 3 Belford Road, EH4 3BL (by Dean Bridge). Admission is £7 members, £15 non-members.
Sunday 15th October 2017 at 7.30 pm
WAGNER ON FILM – Jane Schopf
We will look at two films depicting Wagner's life: the very first bio-pic, Carl Froelich's silent 1913 "Wagner" from the death of Ludwig Geyer to Wagner's death, and Tony Palmer's 1983 epic "Wagner" from Wagner's time in Dresden onwards. Produced 70 years apart and in totally different cinematic and social eras, it is interesting to see the effect that the intervening years and two world wars had on the perception of Wagner and his works.
Dr. Jane Schopf is Programme Director for Opera Studies at Rose Bruford College, Kent, where she initiated and runs the biennial international conference series "Music on Stage". She has spoken and published on Wagner and Krenek both in the UK and abroad.
Sunday 12th November at 7.30 pm
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BRAHMS AND WAGNER – Katy Hamilton
Although they were treated as musical and aesthetic polar opposites in the nineteenth-century press, and are now held up as representatives of the opposing sides in the so-called ‘War of the Romantics’, Brahms and Wagner were not as remote from each other as these labels might suggest. Katy will discuss Brahms’s attitude to Wagner and his music, and the extent to which published pieces – by Wagner, and on Brahms’s behalf – have skewed the image of the real musical relationship between these two men.
Dr. Katy Hamilton is a researcher, writer and presenter on music, specialising in the life and works of Johannes Brahms and his contemporaries, and is the co-editor of Brahms in the Home and the Concert Hall: Between Private and Public Performance (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Sunday 3rd December **6.30 to 9.00pm**
AGM and CHRISTMAS SOCIAL
Notice is hereby given that the Annual General Meeting will be held on 3rd December 2017. Following the AGM, members are invited free of charge to a Christmas social evening including a buffet and drinks.
Saffron Opera Group is completing its Ring Cycle with a concert performance of Gotterdammerung at Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden on Sunday 17th September 2017 at 2pm. Saffron Opera Group Orchestra – boosted to over 100 musicians and including six harps - and Chorus will be joined by a stellar international cast. Elaine McKrill will appear as Brünnhilde, Julian Close as Hagen, Jonathan Stoughton as Siegfried, Paul Carey Jones as Gunther, Cara McHardy as Gutrune, Deborah Humble as Waltraute and Nicholas Folwell as Alberich. They will be conducted by Michael Thorne (the regular conductor of our own EPOG who have played/performed almost all Wagner’s operas since being founded in 2000).
This extraordinary project has been hailed as one of the UK’s most ambitious and well-received Wagnerian events of the last decade, and has attracted superlative notices in a gathering swell of praise. Das Rheingold ‘was fit to be judged by the highest international standards’ (Wagner News); Die Walküre was ‘incandescent’ (Opera Magazine), and the performance of Siegfried ‘seemed to transcend itself... spellbinding’ (The Guardian).
For tickets contact the Box Office on 0845 548 7650
The Swan Knight – Aaron Shepard
Perhaps, we are all a bit guilty of reading the synopsis of the story of an opera just before the curtain goes up, without really knowing what is about to happen. A slightly longer explanation of plot subtleties might be very welcome (without having to plough through the libretto to find out what is actually happening and why!). Our Society was recently sent a copy of this slim volume which has just been published by Skyhook Press in the US. It is intended for a readership of 10+ years and tells the story of Lohengrin. It is an easy read for adults and has the real value of explaining precisely why things happen in the story and their consequences. We hope that Skyhook feel that other opera plots would benefit from similar treatment. (IFMcL)
Any members of our Society who have Scottish Nationalist leanings may be interested in Wagner’s opinion of Englishmen. During his visit to London in 1855 he wrote thus to Otto Wesendonck: “I cannot conceive anything more unpleasant than the typical Englishman. Your typical Englishman is your typical sheep… he will find his fodder but alas the beautiful meadow and the blue sky above do not exist for his peculiar organs of perception.” Unfortunately Wagner’s views on Scotsmen are not recorded.
J Ian Robertson
Editor’s note: Dr. Robertson emphasises that it is not his, but Wagner’s, opinion which is being offered here; also that he (Dr. Robertson) is of mixed English and Scottish race.
The Mastersingers and the Rehearsal Orchestra are performing Götterdämmerung Act III in the Henry Wood Hall, London on 22 October - https://mastersingers.org.uk/our-events/
Longborough Festival Opera’s 2018 Season includes Der fliegende Holländer.
Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe are performing two Ring Cycles at Easter and in May 2018 –http://www.staatstheater.karlsruhe.de/programm/ring/zyklus/
It is possible to combine the first cycle with a visit to nearby Baden-Baden to see Parsifal on Good Friday –https://www.festspielhaus.de/en/performance/wagner-parsifal-24-03-2018-1...
Budapest’s Wagner Festival in June 2018 features, der fliegende Holländer, Tristan und Isolde and Tannhäuser.
The Royal Opera House is reviving the Keith Warner Ring with four Cycles in September-November 2018.
Sofia State Opera are understood to be reviving their Ring Cycle in 2018.
Anush Hovhannisyan who was our Bayreuth Stipendiatin in 2013 is singing Violetta in some Scottish Opera performances of Traviata next Season.
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