Brian Coghlan Memorial Lecture (June 2018)
This talk looks at late 19th and early 20th century productions of Wagnerian opera in Australia, chiefly in Melbourne.
English entrepreneur Thomas Quinlan (1881-1951) came to Australia in 1913, with his British Empire Touring Company principally to promote his touring Ring Cycle, which he named the “All Red Ring”, since he planned to take his opera company to all the red parts of the map—the “stain of the British Empire”.
The company sang in English (many were recruited from Covent Garden) and travelled with its own large orchestra and chorus. It was managed by J. C.
Williamson. Although audiences were familiar with Wagner, in particular Lohengrin and Tannhäuser, for the majority, the Ring was largely unknown. This talk briefly examines late nineteenth and early twentieth-century performances of Wagner’s operas in Australia and then focuses on the reception of Quinlan’s English-language Ring Cycle in 1913. Wagner’s music was extremely popular in Australia and the 1913 season was an immense success, as one critic put it “Mr Quinlan has added an important chapter to the history of music in the Commonwealth”.
Professor Kerry Murphy is Head of Musicology at the Melbourne Conservatorium. She is noted for her scholarship of colonial music history and French music.