12 September 2016: Thirty Years of the Richard Wagner Society of SA Inc.
1986: what a year! South Australia’s 150th birthday. John Bannon was Premier – remember him? Ronnie Reagan was U.S. President; Bob Hawke was Prime Minister. Glenelg won a stirring Grand Final against the odds. And SA State Opera, eclectic as ever, staged Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, at Her Majesty’s Theatre, then the Opera Theatre, which inspired three men of letters, Professor Andrew McCredie, Malcolm Fox and Ralph Middenway (with spiritual father Brian Coghlin absent but there in spirit), to convene a hasty public meeting on 20 June 1986, in the venerable theatre’s foyer. As with The Ring, big things have small beginnings! Thus was born the Society, the initial guest speaker being the incomparable director of The Dutchman, Bernd Benthaak.
At a private room (your correspondent felt most important) within the cavernous and accomplished Citi Zen restaurant, the RWS marked its 30th birthday with a splendid Chinese banquet. And special guests from the revivified ASO in the form of Chief Conductor Nicholas Carter, and Head Honcho, Vincent Ciccarello, treated the attendees to an enchanting mix of reminiscence and erudition.
Special mention, though, must go to inaugural Society member, Marian Frost, who recalled how the whole thing started and then grew, a great and humble talk from one present at the creation (Wagner would have been thrilled!) Your correspondent was by then on his second bottle, but this was over-consumption fired by enthusiasm rather than boredom, by great company, and by the knowledge he had a taxi waiting after the twilight of these gods…
President Geoffrey Seidel gave an entertaining introduction, in which he recalled how his nascent operatic appreciation was galvanised by the creation of the Society, and he mingled amongst the tables throughout a highly successful evening, dispensing wisdom and cheer like a benign Wotan.
All in all, a great event! Herr Wagner would have approved. The SA Wagner Society is a faith-restoring collection of artists, musicians, experts and amateur aficianados; in other words, all the very best of the smart, cultured, clubbable world.