Newsletter Vol 20 No.1 March 2016





Things are looking up. Andrea Buchanan of the London Wagner Society has described her work for the RWVI Committee, of which she is a member, in positive terms: ‘We are working very well as a team now, with responsibilities fairly divided up — the atmosphere is harmonious and productive. Much of this has to do with the wise and firm leadership of Horst Eggers and being on this Committee is now a real pleasure.’ Evidently we have President Eggers to thank for the reinstatement of Bayreuth tickets for members of the Societies (our first ballot of the revived allocations was held at our February meeting), and he himself has written in the latest RWVI Newsletter that ‘a very important year for the RWVI from a strategic perspective has just ended successfully and, with good reason, we can look forward to the future with confidence’. (The Newsletter can be accessed from the RWVI tab); it contains useful information about forthcoming opera performances and URLs of live streaming.) After the anxieties of recent months we too, at the Wagner Society of Scotland, can look forward to the future with rather more confidence, now that a continuity of management has been achieved. This is further detailed below, in a report of the 19th AGM held before Christmas, and in a short update on the succession of the Society’s officers.         [RA]



Summary of the 19th  Annual General Meeting held on 6 December 2015


The meeting was attended by 23 members. The Chair, Dale Bilsland, gave his report outlining the meetings held in the past year and the residential course at Gartmore (‘The Young Wagner’) in September 2015. He announced the good news that a few Bayreuth tickets were to be made available for RWVI affiliated societies and hoped that, should this continue, membership of the WSS might begin to creep up again. The Bayreuth scholar for 2015, Kamilla Dunstan, had sent a report of her experience and this is available on the website or on request to the Secretary.

Scott Wilkinson presented a summary of the accounts for the 13 months to 30 September 2015 (the end of the financial year had been changed to 30 September following a constitutional change agreed at the AGM on 30 November 2014). Accounts were presented separately for the general and the scholarship accounts. The general account showed a surplus of £1,952 largely because there had been no major outlays during the period and because costs of speakers had been less than anticipated. The balance on this account at 30 September 2015 was a healthy £10,176 which would enable the Society to cover costs through the next financial year. For the Scholarship account, the balance now stood at £6,919 which would allow for the costs of supporting a Stipendiat for several years to come.

There were currently 107 individual members and 43 joint memberships, i.e. 193 people in total.

In the course of discussion on how the WSS would continue given that both the Secretary and Treasurer had given notice that they wished to hand over to a successor, it emerged that several volunteers had come forward at the eleventh hour, three of whom were at the meeting.

The Committee for 2105-16 was elected as follows: Dale Bilsland, Chair; Nadine Harrison, Secretary; Scott Wilkinson, Treasurer and Membership Secretary; Robert Allen, Newsletter Editor; Iain Millar, Bayreuth Officer; Gabriele Kuhn, Member; Ina Stewart, Member; Christine Proudfoot, Member; Richard Proudfoot, Member; John Anderton, Member; Derek Williams, Member; Tim Gould, Member. Other volunteers not at the meeting would be co-opted as needed.

Full draft minutes of the AGM are available on request from the Secretary and will be ratified at the 20th AGM in 2016.                   [NH]



Succession of Society Officers


Subsequent to the AGM, the following has been planned for succession to office bearer posts:

John Anderton will be proposed as successor to Nadine Harrison as Secretary at the 2016 AGM and will take over planning of the programme of meetings from October 2016 and other duties in conjunction with NH in the meantime. NH will oversee the programme until June 2016 and organise the Gartmore course in September 2016.

Peter Stuart will be proposed as successor to Scott Wilkinson as Treasurer at the 2016 AGM and will shadow Scott in the meantime. Peter will be co-opted on the Committee until then.

Maureen McLennan will be proposed as successor to Robert Allen as Newsletter Editor at the AGM 2016 and will shadow Robert in the meantime. Maureen will be co-opted on the Committee until then.



Bayreuth Scholarship 2016


Our Bayreuth Scholarship for 2016 has been awarded to soprano Rebecca Godley. Born in Wales, Rebecca studied Music and Mathematics at the University of Leeds, graduating with a BSc Honours Degree. She is currently in her final year in the MMus in Vocal Performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland under the tutelage of Claire Shearer. She is presently preparing for Opera School auditions including an exploration of the Wagner repertoire. She won first prize in the 2013 Mrs. Sunderland Samuel Firth Rosebowl, and has attended Masterclasses with Susan McCulloch, Geoffrey Dolton and Ryland Davies.



Gartmore Study Course ‘The Dresden Years’ 16–19 September 2016


Book now before it’s too late!


If you wish to attend this course, please send your booking form as soon as possible to secure your place. Late bookings cannot be guaranteed accommodation. Details of the course and a booking form were included with the last newsletter in November 2015 and are also available on the website or contact Nadine Harrison, 16 Craiglockhart Terrace Edinburgh EH14 1AJ, 0131 443 1152,  



—Forthcoming Events


All events take place at Edinburgh Society of Musicians, 3 Belford Road, EH4 3BL (by Dean Bridge). Admission £7 members, £15 non-members.


Sunday 3 April 2016 at 7.30 pm

Wagner and the Third Reich — Derek Williams


Wagner’s anti-Semitism is comprehensively documented in contemporary literature and by himself in Das Judenthum in der Musik as well as other writings and personal correspondence.  Nevertheless, prominent Jews numbered amongst Wagner’s closest friends.

Derek Williams, who is on the Associated Staff of the University of Edinburgh as a lecturer/tutor in music and runs Edinburgh University’s Wagner Weeks, investigates what sort of intimate conversations Wagner could be expected to have had with his Jewish friends, and what his attitude would have been to Adolf Hitler, the Third Reich, and all it connoted. Further information can be found in the November 2015 Newsletter and at


Sunday 24 April 2016 at 7.30 pm 

Rehearing Wagner: Semiotics, Poststructuralism, and Leitmotifs — Matthew Sergeant


Leitmotifs are a series of audio signals or symbols in Wagner's narratives. They serve to signify literal or figurative presences — characters, concepts, places or ideas. Together they form a web of meanings that seemingly  entwine into something solid, external, and structural, and maybe even something objective. But where are the listeners in this model? Could we consider them as a passive 'viewers' of this system as it operates before them? Or does the listener act actively, as a 'participant' in a system?

By introducing modes of thought from twentieth century and contemporary continental philosophy (particularly Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze) this talk will attempt to offer an alternative conceptual infrastructure whereby common assumptions regarding such frameworks as a Wagnerian leitmotivic structure might be problematised and maybe even challenged.

Matthew Sergeant studied composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and read for his PhD at the University of Huddersfield, where he was supervised by Liza Lim and Bryn Harrison, being awarded a vice-chancellor’s prize for outstanding research. He is currently based in Manchester and is manager of the Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM) at the University of Huddersfield. His music is performed throughout Europe, the USA, Asia, and Australasia. For further information go to


Sunday 5 June 2016 at 7.30 pm

Ob falsch man oder richtig singt! — Helen Lawson


"Jawohl! Ich merk'! 's ist ein ander Ding, ob falsch man oder richtig singt" — "Yes, indeed!  I see it makes a difference if one sings it wrong or right" (Meistersinger Act 3)Wagner said that he wanted his music to be sung with bel canto technique.  The dictionary defines bel canto as ‘singing with beauty of tone rather than dramatic power’.  But Wagner’s vocal writing can be highly dramatic, so how can we marry dramatic intensity with vocal beauty?  And how can we sustain the voice healthfully when singing at such a highly dramatic level?   In this talk we will consider how the vocal teacher prepares potentially Wagnerian voices at conservatoire level for these challenges.


Helen Lawson teaches vocal studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She was born in Northumberland and studied singing at the Royal College of Music and the National Opera Studio in London, then continued her studies in Munich and Stuttgart. She has appeared as soloist in opera houses at home and abroad, including English National Opera, City of Birmingham Touring Opera, English Touring Opera, and De Vlaamse Opera Antwerpen.  After ten years of teaching in Germany she moved to Glasgow in 2002.



Wagner, Shakespeare, and Beethoven

Ian Robertson continues his series of reflections


Wagner was prepared to accept very few persons as his intellectual equals; however Shakespeare and Beethoven he did admit to that select group. Their influence on Wagner was undoubtedly facilitated by his having the good fortune to meet and converse with both of them in his early youth. According to the novelist Eliza Wille ‘Wagner told me he remembered a dream ... in which he saw Shakespeare and spoke with him, as in real life. This made a deep impression upon him, and caused him to meet the departed Beethoven too.’ (E. Wille, 15 Briefe von Richard Wagner, Berlin 1894)

Neither conversation was easy. Wagner had only rudimentary English and Shakespeare little German. The second exchange was hampered by Beethoven’s deafness and Wagner’s strong Saxon accent. Nevertheless both of those contacts were unquestionably of immense benefit to Wagner’s subsequent artistic development and achievements.


News in Brief


●  Hungarian State Opera is performing Parsifal at Easter, with performances in Budapest on 25 and 28 March 2016 at 17.00 (

●  English National Opera’s dates for their new production of Tristan und Isolde, with Stuart Skelton as Tristan, Heidi Melton as Isolde, Karen Cargill (our speaker last October) as Brangaene, and Matthew Rose as Kurwenal, and conducted by Edward Gardner, are 9, 15, 22, 29 June, 9 July (evening performances) and 19, 26 June, 2 July (matinees). Further details at

●  The New York Metropolitan Opera will be streaming their new production of Tristan und Isolde on Saturday 8 October 2016, with Nina Stemme and Stuart Skelton, and conducted by Simon Rattle making a rare appearance at the Met.

●  A reminder that information about Opera North’s Ring performances in various venues from April to July 2016 can be found at

●  Information about opera performances in Scotland can be found at



Dale Bilsland
22 West Chapelton Drive, Bearsden, Glasgow, G61 2DA
Telephone:  0141 942 0935  Mobile:  0776 691 2724


John Anderton
2 Glenlockart Road, Edinburgh, EH10 5RG
Telephone:  0131 447 1645

Treasurer & Membership Secretary

Peter Stuart
1C Pendreich Road, Bridge of Allan, Stirling, FK9 4PZ
Telephone:  0178 683 3804                

Newsletter Editor

Maureen McLennan
6 Merchiston Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4NR
Telephone:  0131 623 2920  Mobile:  0790 256 3232