The often tempestuous weather associated with the Bayreuth Festival itself prompted a short and unscientific examination of the nation’s growing number of summer opera festivals.


For once we seem to be getting a ‘real’ summer with long periods of dry warm weather (always slightly spoilt by a coterie of farmers, gardeners, water companies and weather personnel urging us to take communal showers or to ignore our wilting garden plants in order to preserve the nation’s water supply). The often tempestuous weather associated with the Bayreuth Festival itself prompted a short and unscientific examination of the nation’s growing number of summer opera festivals.

Glyndebourne is the oldest and most famous example as it follows the Bayreuth model of brilliant music performed to the highest standards with an audience wearing full evening dress and baking in the summer heat. They have always associated themselves with both established star singers and new talent. The productions have often been novel and ground breaking (e.g.The Rake’s Progress with David Hockney’s designs and Giulio Cesare (Sir David McVicar’s production)) and most of the other newer summer festivals take their lead from Glyndebourne’s success.

In addition to its operatic productions, the Buxton Festival has a full programme of talks and recitals; so it has more in common with a summer festival (like our own EIF) than some of the others. Longborough is staging the Flying Dutchman this year as well as La Traviata, but it staged a full ‘Ring’ in 2013 which was very well received. Garsington Festival is another which is staging the Magic Flute, Capriccio and Falstaff (as well as a new commission ‘The Skating Rink’ by David Sawer), showing no fear in tackling works across the operatic spectrum. The Grange Festival continues its foray into opera by giving Agrippina, Barber of Seville and Candide this year. There are others of course, all of which have an appropriate website for the sale of tickets.

Wagnerian productions are still seen as the ultimate challenge; one of John Christie’s ambitions for Glyndebourne was to do a successful production of ‘Meistersinger’ which did not happen until a brand new theatre was built and the necessary budget was found.

It is safe to conclude that these festivals are popular and that popularity is increasing. All this is happening while so much musical education is being abandoned in our schools, and mainstream opera companies are forced to mount musicals or productions that are ‘semi-staged’ in order to save money.

If you are going to one of these festivals, enjoy yourselves. We did, and we still have Bayreuth to come!


Wagner the Wanderer: Ludwig II to the Rescue 1861-1872

The fourth instalment in our residential weekend series covering Wagner’s life and works at Gartmore House takes place from 14-17 September 2018. Full details are available on our website.

Anyone wishing to join this informative and thoroughly enjoyable weekend should contact Dale Bilsland in the first instance to check room availability.

Dale Bilsland – 0141 942 0935 –


Founded in 1992, the Richard Wagner Verband Internationale (International Association of Wagner Societies) is a confederation of Wagner societies around the world from as far afield as New Zealand. Each year a Congress is held to report on the activities of the various societies, and to hold the AGM. Those attending this year from the Wagner Society of Scotland were Derek Williams (Chair and delegate) with Committee Members Dale Bilsland (2nd delegate) and Tim Gould. Notables who attended included Eva Wagner-Pasquier, great granddaughter of Richard Wagner, and we had the opportunity to talk with her at some length in the informal parts of the Congress.

Hosted by Innsbruck-Bozen Wagner Society, this year’s Congress was held in the alpine Tyrol district’s stunning capital city, Innsbruck, with a concert programme prepared by its Chairman, Professor Ekkehard Kappler. On our first night, we were treated to a bawdy comic student production of Die lustige Nibelungen, with the Congress officially launching Thursday 21 June at the Crystal Foyer of the Congress Innsbruck venue, initially with a brass fanfare, followed by music sung by Johannes Wimmer (Bass), superbly accompanied by Annedore Oberborbeck (Violin) and Magdalena Hofmann (Harp).

Next morning, after the Assembly of Delegates, there followed a 1 hour guided-tour bus journey to Erl, where we were treated to a full-scale concert rehearsal of music from Tannhäuser, and after dinner, an evening concert of Wagner’s music, performed by the Tiroler Symphonieorchester at the Tyrolean Festival Hall under the baton of Gustav Kuhn. The performance was of such a high standard that the audience rose to its feet in a standing ovation.

The Symposium on Saturday morning comprised “Stockhausen on the way to Wagner” given by Magdalena Zorn (Munich) and “Nitsch [the composer] and Wagner” given by Leopoldo Siano (Cologne), with questions from the audience at the end of each. That evening a militaristic performance of Rienzi was presented at the Tyrolean Landestheater in collaboration with the German theatre company, Pfalztheater Kaiserslautern.

On the last day, back at Innsbruck Congress venue, Claudio Büchler conducted the Innsbruck Universitätorchester in an outstanding student concert presenting works by Bellini, Wagner and Bruckner. This was followed by a sumptuous lunch at the Messe Innsbruck while final speeches were given by Ekkehard Kappler and RWVI President Horst Eggers; we were again entertained, this time by a quartet of Clarinet, Viola, Accordion, Tuba playing music by Wagner.

The next RWVI Congress will be held in Venice from 28 November to 2 December 2019. Given that this was where Wagner died, and that the Palazzo Ca’ Vendramin Calergi houses the second largest Wagner museum in the world, alongside the historic nature of the city itself, this should be a Congress of exceptional interest. Members are warmly encouraged to attend.

A complete version of this report along with photographs and videos will be uploaded to the website in due course.

Derek Williams (Chair)


All Wagner Society of Scotland events (except 9th December) start at 7.30 pm at the Edinburgh Society of Musicians, 3 Bedford Road, EH4 3BL (by Dean Bridge). Admission is £7 for members and £15 for non-members.

Sunday 14th October 2018

Today everyone apparently loves to hate Wagner. It seems that many people now derive a peculiar satisfaction from revelling in his creations while condemning their creator as a fundamentally bad man. It was not ever thus. A hundred years ago, William Ashton Ellis wrote the preface for Wagner’s letters to Mathilde Wesendonck which he had translated, and he exclaimed, “So here we have not only a great but a profoundly good man”. Paul Dawson-Bowling looks at the evidence for Ellis’s standpoint, and argues that however unfashionable it may be, there is far more to justify it, than there is for any opposite view.

Paul Dawson-Bowling studied classics and philosophy at Oxford before training in medicine and becoming a family doctor in Kent. As a schoolboy he bicycled across Europe for the Bayreuth Festival. For 25 years he has been a principle reviewer for Wagner News and has published articles in the UK and America.

Sunday 11th November 2018


Like many of his peers, the young French composer Claude-Achille Debussy (1862-1918) became for a time passionately devoted to Wagner, undertaking the pilgrimage to Bayreuth and describing Tristan und Isolde as ‘the most beautiful thing I know’. His struggles with the Wagnerian legacy during the long labours on his only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande (1892-95, rev. 1902), have been much discussed. But this influence persisted, in various forms, through his entire oeuvre.

This talk will review some wagnériste inflections in Pelléas before scanning ahead to later instances, including the Gabriele d’Annunzio ‘mystery’ play Le Martyre de Saint-Sébastien (1911), for which Debussy wrote incidental music distinctly reminiscent of Parsifal (his other favourite music drama). We will hear, and consider, the ways in which this most ‘French’ composer negotiated with a towering Germanic model even as he took on more and more nationalistic postures in his music and criticism alike.

David J. Code is Reader in Music at the University of Glasgow, School of Culture and Creative Arts. He has published extensively on such key figures in fin-de-siècle modernism as Claude Debussy, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Igor Stravinsky. Recently he has also written several articles on the music in the films of Stanley Kubrick, and is planning a co-edited series of volumes on ‘musicality’ in the work of major directors.

Sunday 9th December 2018 **6.30 to 9.00 pm**

Notice is hereby given that the Annual General Meeting will take place on Sunday 9th December 2018.

Following the AGM members are invited free of charge to a Christmas social evening including a buffet and drinks. During the evening Rebecca Godley the 2016 Stipendatian will sing Wagner and other songs.

Rings Abounding

Rings are being performed this year in Sofia, Munich and Covent Garden. Announced so far for 2019 – New York, Leipzig, Dusseldorf, Geneva, Budapest and Minden, and in 2020 – Berlin (both Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper) and Bayreuth.

Covent Garden cinema broadcasts for 2018/19 includes Die Walküre on 28 October 2018. Met HD’s forthcoming Season also includes Die Walküre on 30 March 2019.

Longborough Festival Opera: Following der Fliegende Holländer this summer, LFA has announced a new Ring Cycle over four years 2019-2022, with a complete Cycle in 2023.

Minders for Stipendiatin at Bayreuth 2018

Each year the society is pleased to invite two of our members to accompany the winner of the Stipendiatin to Bayreuth. Two seats are guaranteed by Bayreuth annually, with a view to looking after our winner while abroad. This year, Bayreuth are offering us Der fliegende Holländer on 7th August. The cost per seat is €260 plus €10 in bank and processing fees, along with any applicable charges by your financial institution. We realise Bayreuth is a long way to travel and accommodate yourself for just one opera, unless you have other business to transact, or would just like to use the opportunity for tourism, but if you have an interest to attend, then please contact the chairman as soon as possible.


Wagner originally entitled the opera Tannhäuser, ‘The Mount of Venus’. However his agent Meser advised against this, pointing out that the title was the subject of much lewd humour, apparently originating with the students and staff of the Dresden medical school. The initially uncomprehending composer was told that he should get about more.

Eventually Wagner stuffily announced “I was sufficiently disgusted by the mere intelligence of this trivial attitude to consent to the recommended change; to the name of my hero, Tannhauser”.

J Ian Robertson


Lohengrin, the opening performance of the Bayreuth festival 2018 with Piotr Beczala will be live-streamed on 25th July. It starts at 3.00 BST which is one hour ahead of the 4.00 CET. (…)

RWVI Kongress in 2019 will take place from 28 November to 2 December (not March as announced in Newsletter 21.1) in Venice.

Kongress in 2020 will take place in Bonn on 23-27 September 2020, to coincide with the Beethoven Anniversary.

Provisional programmes are available on our website or from Chair, Derek Williams.