WSNSW e-news 15

Dear friends of the Wagner Society NSW 
Thank you to all those members who have renewed their membership for 2022.
A reminder to those who haven’t yet renewed but intend to – subscriptions for 2022 are due at the end of February.
The following subscriptions are for new & renewing 2022 memberships:


Single membership:  $75 Single pensioner membership:  $45 Shared membership: $110 Shared pensioner membership: $65 Student membership: $25

Payments can be made:

– by EFT: Use your bank’s internet banking facilities to send your payment – with your name – electronically to Westpac Banking Corporation, Paddington NSW Branch: Account Name: The Wagner Society / BSB: 032040 / Account Number: 911323

– by Cheque: Mail a cheque or money order for your annual membership fee to: The Wagner Society, GPO Box 4574, Sydney NSW 2001

Please note that subscriptions CANNOT be paid online. Also, members can pay for more than one year if they wish.




Around 60 members and friends enjoyed Sunday’s very entertaining and informative talk, with musical exerpts, by Robert Gay on The impact of French Grand Opera on the works of Verdi & Wagner, as well as the champagne and refreshments served after the first part of the talk.  More to come in the March Quarterly.
View the program and Robert Gay’s hand-out 
WSNSW  WAGNER IN MAY — 14 – 24 May 2022:

OA’s Lohengrin in Melbourne





29 May 2022:

Wagner Society’s birthday celebrations, following our AGM and 

a concert

Details to come

Wagner Societys cakes for Wagners birthday

The Wagner Society NSW has celebrated Wagner’s birthday (22 May) every year since 1981, first with a supper of typical German food and wines, then by many annual dinners with guest speakers which in 1995 became luncheons at the Women’s Club, and more recently by champagne toasts following a recital at the Goethe Institut. In addition the celebration was held by zoom in 2020 owing to COVID-19.

The tradition of having a birthday cake began in May 1982 at the Sebel Town House dinner when Jean-Louis Stuurop [Member 75] made and presented an enormous birthday cake decorated with the ‘Ring motif’ in chocolate piping over a rich cream frosting.

In recent years, this tradition has been continued by Barbara de Rome [Member 207]. We all remember the wonderful cake baked by Barbara foWagner’s birthday (and the Society’s 40th anniversary) in 2021. 


— 22 May:

Wagner’s birthday





In the lead-up to our celebration, the e-news will include descriptions of some of Wagner’s birthdays.

His birth Wilhelm Richard Wagner was born on 22 May 1813 in Leipzig, Germany at No 3, the Brühl (The House of the Red and White Lions). 

His early birthdays From his childhood Wagner had been accustomed to seeing family-life made enjoyable at every opportunity. Long afterwards, he wrote ‘Ah! then one still had household garlands! Then a poem was composed and enacted for every birthday; no festival without its special ode.’

1840: 27th birthday (Paris) Wagner married his first wife Minna Planer in 1836, and the following year they moved to Riga where he became music director of the local opera. However they fled Riga in 1839, on the run from creditors, and spent the years 1839 to 1842 in Paris, enduring severe poverty.

After nearly a year’s residence in Paris, the clothes he had brought with him from Germany were showing signs of wear. Minna managed to find a German tailor in Paris who agreed to provide her with a suit of clothes for Wagner for his 27th birthday, and agreed to wait for payment until more favourable times. Minna’s gift deeply touched Wagner.

1841: 28th birthday (Meudon, outside Paris) In April 1841 Wagner and Minna moved from an apartment in the Rue du Helder to an inexpensive summer flat in Meudon for six months, where the debt laws could be more easily evaded.

On 22 May Wagner had a cheerless twenty-eighth birthday due to their lack of funds. The plaque in front of his house quotes him: ‘Sa misère est extrême et il connaît, à Meudon, les mois les plus cruels de son existence.’ [‘His poverty is extreme and he knows, in Meudon, the cruellest months of his existence.’]

1843: 30th birthday (Dresden) Wagner left Paris and moved to Dresden in 1842, where he and Minna lived for six years.

Not long after his appointment as Royal Kapellmeister in early 1843, Wagner took charge of the Dresden Liedertafel, at the time the city’s leading male choral society and they sang a serenade in honour of Wagner’s thirtieth birthday. He wrote to his brother Albert: ‘On my birthday, to wit, a grand serenade with coloured lanterns etc. was given me by 60 singers from the local clubs, when a poem was also presented me which they sang to a melody of Weber’s. A thing like that is mighty touching!’


1848: 35th birthday (Magdala)After the unsuccessful uprising in Dresden on 3-9 May 1848, in which he played a minor role, Wagner had to flee to Switzerland. 

Following written instructions from Wagner, Minna reached Magdala on his birthday on 22 May. Having travelled from Dresden via Weimar under a false passport, she reunited with Wagner as he wished to see her before he fled. Wagner wrote that she was ‘bent on persuading him to flee the country immediately and for good. No attempt to raise her to the level of my own mood was successful; she persisted in regarding me as an ill-advised, inconsiderate person who had plunged both himself and her into the most terrible situation.’ 

1852: 39th birthday (Pension Rinderknecht, Zurich) Wagner now lived with Minna in exile in Zurich from 1849 to 1858. It was in Zurich in early 1852 that Wagner met the rich silk trader Otto Wesendonck and his wife Mathilde.

Wagner and Minna had rented the small but fairly comfortable Pension Rinderknecht, a pied-à-terre situated halfway up the Zurich Berg, in April. They able to enjoy an alfresco meal on his thirty-nineth birthday with a view of the lake and the distant Alps.  

1853: 40th birthday (Zurich)Otto Wesendonck financed a three-day music festival in which concerts of opera excerpts from RienziFliegender HolländerTannhäuser and Lohengrin were held on 18, 20 and 22 May, the last being Wagner’s fortieth birthday. A banquet was held in his honour on 21 May.

The birthday concert on 22 May ended with the throwing of wreaths and bouquets, and the reciting of a poem of praise of Wagner which had been attached to one of the wreaths. He responded ‘What great and touching gladness you have given me today.’

He wrote to his niece Clara Brockhaus: ‘Had you been here for my last birthday, though, you’d have enjoyed yourself; the music-performances gave even myself great delight, and affection was shown me on all sides that was bound to go straight to my heart.’

1854: 41st birthday (Zurich) Wagner wrote in his autobiography ‘My Life’: ‘About the time of my birthday I had a visit from my old friend Tichatschek of Dresden, who remained faithful to his devotion and enthusiasm for me–as far as so uncultured a person was capable of such emotions. I was awakened in a touching way by the strains of my beloved Adagio from Beethoven’s E minor Quartette. My wife had invited the musicians in whom I took a special interest for this occasion and they had, with subtle delicacy, chosen the very piece of which I had once spoken with such great emotion. At our party in the evening Tichatschek sang several things from Lohengrin, and really amazed us all by the brilliancy of voice he still preserved.’

1855: 42nd birthday (London) In May Wagner was in London to conduct a series of eight concerts by the Philharmonic Society of London. He received Minna’s congratulatory letter on the morning of his birthday and was pleased to learn that her gift was a dressing-gown of violet velvet, lined with satin of similar colour, with a biretta to match. A banquet was held for him that day.

1857: 44th birthday (a cottage, Enge, Zurich) From late April 1857 to August 1858, Wagner and Minna lived in an Asyl, a cottage, on the Grüner Hügel (the Green Hill) close by the Wesendoncks’ villa in the Zürich suburb of Enge, which had been offered by Otto Wesendonck.

Wagner recovered from a bad cold in time for his forty-fourth birthday. Sitting on the cottage roof in the evening, he heard one of the songs of the Three Rhine Maidens, from the finale of Rheingold, from across the gardens. He had allowed Frau Karoline Pollert to practise the last act of Walküre, and the Rhine Maidens scenes from the Rheingold, with her two daughters, and frequently in the course of the winter they had given short performances of this music for his friends. That evening, this music made him anxious to take up Tristan again. But first he began to complete the composition of the second act of Siegfried, which had only just been begun.

The Wagners’ cottage is on the far right of the Wesendonck Villa.

After Wagner’s affair with Mathilde Wesendonck in 1857, Minna mostly lived apart from him, and subsequent efforts at reconciliation proved ultimately impossible.

1860: 47th birthday (Paris) Wagner wrote: ‘I passed my forty-seventh birthday in a far from happy frame of mind, to which, however, on the evening of this day, the peculiarly bright glow of Jupiter gave me an omen of better things to come. The beautiful weather, suitable to the time of year, which in Paris is never favourable to the conduct of business, had only tended to increase the stringency of my needs. I was and still continued to be without any prospect of meeting my household expenses, which had now become very heavy.’

To be continued – happier birthdays ahead with Ludwig II and with Cosima.


With warm regards from the President and Committee of Wagner Society in NSW.


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