#Gartmore 2019
#Our Stipendiat 2019
#Summary of AGM
#forthcoming events
#Wagner’s opinion of Scotsmen
#News in Brief

 E d i t o r i a l

When we received our notification from Richard-Wagner-Verband for this year’s allocation of tickets for our Society, they gave us details of the exceptional demand for tickets for the summer Festival. We were informed that the new production of Lohengrin had been oversubscribed by 200%. Now we do not really know how this compares to previous years, but it is very clear that there is still a great deal of interest in the annual Bayreuth Festival. Wagner (and indeed, Cosima) would have been quietly content to know that the Festival was successful and has become one of the major cultural events in the world each year.

That being said, it is quite disappointing that our allocation is confirmed to us relatively late in the New Year. Good accommodation is at a premium in Bayreuth and it is natural that any ticket holder will want to get a decent hotel and a satisfactory trip booked as soon as possible.   It is not very practical to drive to Bayreuth from the UK and transport links to the town are pretty average.   Anyway, enclosed with this Newsletter is the usual ballot form.  We have been allocated a total of eight tickets this year (four singles and two paired) for dates between 14th and 28th August.  Please see your ballot form for details of how these are to be split. If you wish to participate, please ensure that your ballot is returned to Dale Bilsland by 16th March 2019 or that you notify him by email by that date. We will then be in a position to draw the successful applicants at the Society’s regular Sunday meeting on 17th March 2019. If you are successful and cannot manage the meeting, you will be notified shortly thereafter.

We should also like to draw to your attention to the Flash Sale of tickets which is organised by Bayreuth itself on 7th April 2019.  Individuals can participate in this sale but we believe that tickets go quickly, so early application is advised. Details, we understand, will be found on the website https://www.bayreuther-festspiele.de

Finally, our new Treasurer has taken his duties seriously and has familiarised himself with the details of all the members who have paid their subscription for 2019. If your subscription cannot be paid for any reason by 31st March 2019, then your details will be removed from the Society’s database. If you have any queries, please contact Ian at treasurer@wagnerscotland.net.


Our Gartmore Weekend this year will be led by David Nice M.A. Ed who took over at short notice last year and covered Das Rheingold in the first of four planned expositions. It will take place from 19-23rd September 2019 and this year will deal with Die Walküre.  

We have been delighted at the response this year. Residential places are almost sold out, but there are three rooms that share bathroom facilities, two of which are still available at a cost of £520 per person Shared, and £560 for Single occupation.

Places are also available on a non-residential basis if attendees arrange their own B&B locally. The cost covering lunches and dinners, plus teas/coffees in the Hotel and the course fee is £275 per person. If you wish to take advantage of these places, please get in touch with Brenda Nesbitt or Dale Bilsland as soon as possible (gartmore@wagnerscotland.net).


A number of excellent candidates applied for our Bayreuther Stipendiat Scholarship this year.  The Scholarship Sub-Committee (Derek Williams, our Chairman, Dale Bilsland and Ian McLennan) met with the three finalists early in January.  There were two sopranos with a particular interest in Wagner’s music and the third finalist was a young conductor. After the usual interviews with the candidates, the unanimous choice of the sub-committee members  was Michael Graham. Michael impressed the judges with his knowledge of Wagner’s music and his enthusiasm for conducting.   The criteria for selection are quite diverse, but the most important consideration is to find the candidate who may benefit the most from the ‘Bayreuth experience’. The judges felt that Michael was exactly the person who would benefit greatly and should be our Stipendiat this year, and the decision was quick and unanimous.


Derek Williams in the Chair outlined details of the meetings held during the year and the programme for the coming season. He drew attention to the reorganised study weekend at Gartmore caused by the untimely death of the founder of the Society, Derek Watson in September. He paid tribute to the enormous contribution which Derek had made to the Society over the years. The Chairman reported the rebuilding of the Society website and recommended its use to all members.

The retiring treasurer Peter Stuart reported on the healthy state of the accounts. He drew attention to the remarkable action taken by Derek Williams to acquire another speaker at very short notice for the Gartmore weekend, saving the Society approximately £7000 in cancellation fees.

The Committee for 2018-19 was elected as follows:

Derek Williams                         Chair
John Anderton                           Secretary
Ian McLennan                           Treasurer & Membership Secretary
Maureen McLennan                Newsletter Editor
Iain Miller                                  Bayreuth Officer
Christine Proudfoot                 Catering Supervisor
Dale Bilsland                             Member
Tim Gould                                  Member
Ina Stewart                                Member
Brenda Nesbitt                          Member

The winner of the 2019 Bayreuther Stipendiat competition was announced, and Michael Graham was congratulated and welcomed to the meeting.

After the AGM the Christmas party took place and consisted of a recital by Rebecca Godley, the 2016 Stipendiatin, accompanied on the piano by Julia Lynch which was greatly enjoyed between drinks and Christmas fare. 

Forthcoming events

All Wagner Society of Scotland events start at 6.30pm at Edinburgh Society of Musicians, 3 Belford Road, EH4 3BL (by Dean Bridge).   Light refreshments are available during the interval.  Admission is £7 members, £15 non-members.  

Sunday 17th March 2019 at 6.30pm

According to various German and British media, Wagner ‘influenced Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich’.  The composer was apparently ‘acclaimed by Adolf Hitler as the earliest inspiration for his idea of a pure German master race’.  Wagner, of course, entertained no such idea, but such views are standard in journalism, and even find their way into scholarship.  This talk will assess Wagner’s place in the diverse spectrum of German mid-nineteenth century anti‑Jewish writing, and describe the changes which took place in the decade of his death, including assessments of him by Nazi intellectuals.

Derek Hughes is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Aberdeen.  His research embraces a number of ancient and modern literatures from Homer to the present day, and naturally examines Wagner’s self‑immolating women.

The talk will be preceded by the members’ ballot for tickets for Bayreuth 2019.

Sunday 14th April 2019 at 6.30pm

Dr Michael Downes is Director of Music, University of St Andrews. He is also Artistic Associate, Byre Theatre St Andrew’s.  He will explore the link between Elgar’s oratorios and Wagner’s music dramas.

Sunday 12th May 2019 at 6.30pm

Robert is the principal conductor of the Orchestra of the Canongate, an orchestra based in Edinburgh that he founded in 2002.   Robert studied violin, piano and conducting at the Royal College of Music in London and has conducted many local and highly regarded UK professional and amateur orchestras; he has worked with many leading artists such as Nicola Benedetti.   He has conducted a large number of operas including, Guilio Cesare, Carmen, Tosca, Die Fledermaus, Don Giovanni, Fidelio, The Magic Flute and others.   He enjoyed a particular success with the UK premiere of Das Lied der Nacht by Hans Gal in the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh.  He will look at the many challenges of conducting Wagner’s music from the pit, with emphasis on Wagner’s Preludes to his operas.

Sunday 9th June 2019 at 6.30pm

In his The World as Will and Representation Arthur Schopenhauer developed the concept of a “metaphysics of music” which remained highly abstract.  But in “Richard Wagner in Bayreuth” Nietzsche offered an historical application of this concept by describing Tristan und Isolde  as an “opus metaphysicum”. Dr Fend of King’s College, London asks, ‘Do philosophical concepts still offer any context to listen to, and think about Wagner’s operas today?’

Early Notification!   EDINBURGH PLAYERS OPERA GROUP (EPOG) is embarking on another Ring Cycle in the Portobello Town Hall.   This group of players and singers from all over the UK, both professional and amateur, gets together annually to play the great late romantic operatic repertoire and now it is the turn of the Ring (again).   Das Rheingold will be performed in the afternoon of 29 September 2019 and it is always good to hear musicians and singers who perform just for the sheer joy of it!


In an earlier note in these pages, I quoted Wagner’s opinion of Englishmen.  (It was not favourable.)  I said then that his view of Scotsmen was not recorded.  However, that statement of mine requires some qualification.  On the same 1855 visit to London which led Wagner to conclude that he could not conceive of anything more unpleasant than the typical Englishman, he was introduced to the composer George Alexander MacFarren.  That gentleman Wagner described as “a pompous and melancholy Scot”, clearly supposing those adjectives to typify the Scottish race.  Wagner was, however, mistaken; MacFarren, despite his name, was English.

Incidentally, the editor will permit me to make these observations only if I declare (truthfully) that I am of mixed Scottish and English descent.  Obviously, I am not responsible for Wagner’s opinions.

J Ian Robertson


Opera of Genève, Geneva  Der Ring des Nibelungen  March 12-17th 2019

The Berlin Festtage, Berlin  Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg  18th April 2019

Cheminz Opera, Cheminz, Germany Der Ring des Nibelungen  18-22nd April 2019

Staatsoper, Vienna  Parsifal  24TH April 2019

Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich  Tannhäuser  May 5th-12th 2019

Metropolitan Opera, New York City:   Three Ring Cycles, 9 March – 27 April, 29 April – 4 May, 6 May – 11 May 2019 and Die Walküre will be transmitted as part of the Met HD Season in cinemas on 30 March 2019.

The RWVI Kongress in 2019 will take place from 28-30th November in Venice.