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AGM followed by DVD - GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG ACT II of the Bayreuth Centenary Ring

Saturday 20 Nov 2021 at 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Patrice Chéreau was chosen to direct the Ring at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in 1976, exactly one hundred years after the first staging by Richard Wagner himself. Chéreau combined visual aspects from the 19th century and from our own time with an older ‘Germanic’ period, underlining the timeless power of symbols. At our meeting on 20 November, following the (hopefully short) AGM, we shall show Act II of Götterdämmerung, which lasts for one hour. This is a fantastic Act featuring the most potent (Shakespearean?) drama in the entire Ring as Brünnhilde is brought against her will to the Hall of the Gibichungs to marry Gunther. Through Hagen’s malevolence, Siegfried has been stripped of all memories of her, and the result is catastrophic. Brünnhilde, Hagen and Gunther conspire to bring about Siegfried’s death in one of the most powerful trios in all opera. We shall experience the only chorus in the Ring – but what a chorus it is! Pierre Boulez conducts the superlative Festpielhaus orchestra, and the singers are outstanding in this recording from 1980, including Gwyneth Jones as Brünnhilde, Fritz Hübner as Hagen, Manfred Jung as Siegfried, Hermann Becht as Alberich, Jeannine Altmeyer as Gutrune, and Franz Mazura (who sang Klingsor in Brisbane in 1995) as Gunther. The Chorus Master was Norbert Balatsch.


CHRISTMAS LUNCH - Details to follow

Saturday 11 Dec 2021 at 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm


"Hurry away then towards the East" - PETER BASSETT

Saturday 19 Feb 2022 at 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Richard Wagner grew up in early 19th century Saxony when there was growing fascination with Chinese porcelain and decoration, Persian stories and poetry, and Indian ideas and philosophies. Mozart, Spohr and Weber had already drawn on eastern subjects in their works, and other composers followed suit. In the 1830s, Wagner toyed with an opera inspired by The Thousand and One Nights, and in the 1850’s, disillusioned and in exile, he talked about settling down in what was then the Ottoman Empire. His interest in the Orient and its philosophies never left him, as Tristan und Isolde, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung and Parsifal demonstrate beyond doubt. As we contemplate the planned Brisbane Ring production directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, it is timely to look at Eastern influences which played such an important part in Wagner’s creative endeavours.


WINIFRED WAGNER and her extended reign/influence over Bayreuth - STEPHEN EMMERSON

Saturday 19 Mar 2022 at 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

When the middle-aged Siegfried Wagner married Winifred Williams, an 18-year-old English orphan, in 1914, the long-term consequences of this union for the Bayreuth Festival could hardly have been imagined. She would prove to be a remarkably capable and loyal companion for Siegfried until his death in 1930 after which time she took control of the festival directing its activities until after the Second World War. She is a controversial figure through her close associations with Adolf Hitler but remains a fascinating case, nonetheless. This presentation will consider some of the various issues raised by her directorship and the legacy it has left on the reputation of the festival – not to mention that of the composer and his family – and, more broadly, on the place of music in this traumatic period of European history.


SINGERS and ACTING: the changing state of what we see on the operatic stage - GRAHAM BRUCE

Saturday 16 Apr 2022 at 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

“Acting in opera! The term is a contradiction in itself”, wrote one critic in the first half of the last century. This is probably a fair comment, given what the same writer described as “that grossly exaggerated form of gesture and expression” which many singers employed during that period. This talk will examine the possible reasons for this, and also consider reactions to the stage appearances of a few famous singers of the time. Visual evidence, of course, is generally lacking, but a rare film of a performance in the early 1950s which will be screened will give us a clear idea. More recent times, however, have seen the stage decked with highly convincing, realistic performances and the discussion will consider the reasons for this and provide excerpts from Wagner productions which exhibit the finest of acting performances allied with fine quality singing.


WAGNER BIRTHDAY LUNCH followed by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) : A Wagnerian Composer - COLIN MACKERRAS

Saturday 21 May 2022 at 12:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Richard Strauss’s music was profoundly influenced by Wagner. Strauss continued the mighty tradition of German opera to which Wagner contributed so much. This talk will give some focus to those works with libretti by the Austrian playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Strauss’s cooperation with whom is among the most famous of all composer-librettist duos in musical history. There will be some consideration of Strauss’s important role as a conductor of Wagner’s works, which included making his debut in Bayreuth in 1894 with Tannhäuser. The talk will be illustrated by pictures and musical excerpts from Strauss’s operas and songs.


RECITAL - Details to follow

Saturday 18 Jun 2022 at 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Location and time to be confirmed.