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Views 2011

Views from the Society about matters relating to Wagner in 2011.

'Wagner Licht': Generation Y to Shine a Light on Wagner

Katie French

In his recent Address honouring the Australian composer, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Opera Australia's artistic director, Lyndon Terracini confronted both Sydney and Melbourne guests with what he called 'the elephant in the room: the changing demographic of Australian audiences.' In feisty words, he described how opera companies overseas have had to close because of resistance to change from small groups with a sense of 'patrician entitlement'. His attitude is that 'Opera must change - or die'! Surprisingly, perhaps those wished-for winds of change are already stirring in Sydney.

At a recent meeting of the Committee of the Wagner Society, Mike Day, lecturer from the School of Design in the Faculty of Design Architecture and Building at the University of Technology Sydney, and one of his students, Belinda Middlebrook, presented their concept for a project entitled 'Wagner Licht', which would involve the planning and construction of light and sound installations inspired by Richard Wagner's music dramas.

The project, as part of a celebration of the bicentenary of Wagner's birth in May 1813, is anticipated to be both interdisciplinary and collaborative, involving students from general design, lighting and sound design, and theatre. (By its very nature it's already sounding like Wagner's concept of Gesamtkunstwerk!)

Belinda, who is studying for a Bachelor of Interior and Spatial Design, sub-majoring in Theatre, recently participated in the Prague Quadrennial, an international Scenography festival. In that multicultural environment she realised that the project which her supervisor had proposed had the potential for international collaboration, with students and professionals from design universities working together, and using new technologies and ideas to illustrate the project.

For Belinda, the project has involved the rather unenviable task of a crash course in Wagner, his writings, his theories on theatre, and most importantly, his works - something which most Wagner lovers come to experience, understand and love over a period of years, if not a lifetime. She has found him to be 'an amazing artist', one which her generation has missed out on, viewing classical music as 'old fashioned and uninteresting.' She now views him as a 'radical', arguing that if he were alive today he would still be challenging how audiences view performance and how they listen to music.

So, how to broaden the demographic, and introduce new generations to Wagner's music theatre in a compelling way?

Hers is the techno-savvy generation, the generation that thrives on instant communication technologies, on the media, and digital technologies, and it's through using these new technologies in light and sound design that she hopes to get fellow students on board.

Belinda has become fascinated by Wagner's distinctive use of the leitmotif, and following what she calls 'its individual journey'. This journey she feels could perhaps be translated into expressive light, colour and sound. Rather 'innovatively', she suggests that DJ 'mixes', with abstract sounds and beats, could be mixed with Wagner's libretto to take the audience on a journey of heightened emotions.

She envisages commissioning 'design teams' of both students and professionals, nationally and internationally, each interpreting a range of leitmotifs in multi-media installations. Teams would work within the same dimensional framework of a cube, so that ultimately, members of an audience could step into the radical world of the leitmotif. When the installations were brought together in 2013, they would result in the creation of a 'sub-city of Wagnerian spaces'!

Before we all get too excited, it should be pointed out that Belinda is presently conducting the feasibility study. This involves designing three leitmotifs using light and projection in a team including two music students, and two DJs creating a hypothetical sound piece. Her results are to be presented to her Supervisor in December, 2011.

If successful, it's the search for Sponsorship in the first part of 2012, (they have Osram, Xenian/Philips, and Zumtobel in their sights); Design and Fabrication by March, 2013; culminating in a joint exhibition at the spectacular 'Vivid' Festival in Sydney in May/June, 2013, just in time for the Wagner Bicentenary.

With talent and sponsorship on their side, they could well provide what Lyndon Terracini is looking for - a means of connecting with a contemporary opera audience.Through shining a light on Wagner, they may become the opera-goers and opera-designers of the future.

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Country House Opera In England - notabe venues

Julie And Terry Clarke

Small opera companies abound in the UK these days. For many years travelling groups such as Pavilion Opera, founded in 1981 and still going, present fully staged operas to piano or small orchestra accompaniment in the libraries or hallways of stately homes. I well remember Cherubino actually disappearing through the library window at Sledmere House and Violetta, herself, playing the opening bars of the overture to la Traviata before being seamlessly replaced by the actual pianist.

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Remembering Wagner - two unplanned glimpses of Wagner's life and death

Colleen And Michael Chesterman

This year, 2011, we had two unplanned glimpses of Wagner's life and death. In June, we spent a week at the Bach Festival in Leipzig, where Wagner was born on 22 May 1813. In September, we spent a week in Venice, where he died on 13 February 1883.

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Letter To The Editor

Mise-En-Scà ¨ne - A Key Element in an Outstanding Production - Prof Michael Ewans

As a relatively poor (and now retired) academic I am unable to fly around the world in pursuit of productions of the Ring, much though I would like to. So it was a great good fortune for me to have been a speaker at a conference near San Francisco on dates in May 2011 which enabled me to see the Siegfried of the Zambello/Runnicles Ring in dress rehearsal.

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'Ring' Festivals - Katie French

As more and more opera companies gather their resources to prepare 'Ring' Cycles for the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner in 2013, regular opera goers are increasingly being invited to enrich their enjoyment of the four operas in the Cycle by attending a programme of events associated with, and inspired by, these productions. Under the umbrella of a 'Ring Festival', both San Francisco Opera in 2011 and LA Opera in 2010 were able to bring together a wide range of varying organizations - and not just the local Wagner Societies - to contribute to the celebration, and broaden its appeal.

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