Livid Wagnerites replace Dame Gwyneth with Dame Anne

Livid Wagnerites replace Dame Gwyneth with Dame Anne


norman lebrecht

August 04, 2018

You will remember that Dame Gwyneth Jones had a difference of opinion with the Wagner Society and has taken her masterclass o Bayreuth.

The Wagner Society is refusing to take this lying down.

Here’s the latest:


As previously announced, The Wagner Society will not be holding a Singing Competition in 2018, but the event will resume in 2019.

Our support for the next generation of Wagner singers is a major priority for the Society, and we have been considering how to provide and expand this support in the future.

Dame Anne Evans has kindly agreed to be involved in the 2019 Singing Competition, together with Malcolm Rivers of The Mastersingers and Henry Kennedy, a Committee member and himself a very talented young musician.

Dame Anne and Malcolm Rivers have been involved with auditions for the forthcoming Longborough Ring Cycle, so they have an excellent view of the talent available. It will be a privilege for The Wagner Society to be involved in hosting Singing Competitions for Wagner singers during the development of the Longborough Ring over the next five years.

Richard Miles



  • william osborne says:

    These Wagner Societies are an interesting cultural phenomenon. There are more than 26,000 members in 147 societies that belong to the International Association of Wagner Societies around the globe. I think the organization is based in Venice (where Wagner is buried.) Their annual congresses are held almost exclusively in Germany, but given the dark turns of history, I think the congress held in Wrocław in 2011 might have given some Poles the heebie-jeebies. Among other things, Wroclaw is the capital of Silesia, a region which the far-right in Germany claims as its own. Sadly, the history of Wagner reception makes issues like this relevant.

    Another reason the Society is interesting is that Wagner is one thing, and sometimes Wagnerism another. What is this special magnetism of a music oriented around 19th century cultural nationalism, and that later became (rightly or wrongly) associated with racialist concepts? How does the Society sort all of that out? Does the Society addresses the problematic history of Wagner reception.

    In my experience, many Wagnerites have a kind of fanatic defensiveness. Forgive me if I ignore nonconstructive comments.

    • william osborne says:

      I should add that the Bayreuther Orchstra has the lowest representation of women of any major orchestra in the world, about 5%. Only one out of 20 musicians is a woman. The ratio in the winds and percussion is 66 to 3. (It’s a huge orchestra that rotates services.) Its one more part of the strange world of Wagnerism.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Don’t forget the London gentlemen’s clubs where there is not one single woman a member – they had to set-up their own gentlemen’s club, exclusively for women. And the Torino Mandoline Ensemble consists exclusively of women, apart from one male Syrian fugitive who happened to play the instrument in Tadmur.

        • Mike Schachter says:

          Not sure what the relevance of London’s gentlemen’s’ clubs is to German orchestras??

          • John Borstlap says:

            It’s about the grave injury to female gender identity by the existence of groupings which don’t seem to like them. Although there are many many orchestras in the world welcoming mixed gender composition, there seems to exist a feeling of rage about the rare groups who are seriously gender-imbalanced and don’t seem to suffer from that condition.

      • Player says:

        I shouldn’t imagine Christian Thielemann could care less about how many men or women in the orchestra. He wants good players happy to volunteer their summer, and in the heat – who will play in the tradition of the House and respond to his and his colleagues’ interpretations.

    • Jonny Gale says:

      Wagner. The Donald Trump of composers. Very rousing among certain people but his actual contribution to music is a fraction of what he and his supporters say it is. Harmonically Chopin was already there and dramatically Meyerbeer et al did it all. Wagner got lucky with being bankrolled by mad King Lud, stole Mendelssohn’s and Meyerbeer’s ideas and used his influence, and the antisemitism of the region to denigrate those who’s contribution he claimed as his own. I still like listening to it though. (Sometimes).

    • Tamino says:

      False, Wagner is not buried in Venice.

    • Richard Ward says:

      Richard and Cosima Wagner are in fact both buried in the garden of their villa Wahnfried in Bayreuth. This is common knowledge, surely.

  • Bruce says:

    So it looks like the result of this tiff amongst the grownups will be more educational/ performance opportunities for young singers? Silver linings.

  • John Borstlap says:

    I have some issues of ‘Wagner’, the journal published by the UK Wagner Society, and they offer excellent musicological articles and analyses, without any whiff of political affiliations. And the journal is very open about the difficulties surrounding RW’s oeuvre. For instance, in the 2000/5 issue there is an extensive analysis of Wagner’s antisemitism by Udo Bermbach: “The aesthetic motive in Wagner’s anti-semitism” which traces, without making excuses and plodding-on in many serious pages, the terrible and entirely unnecessary pamflet of “Jewishness in Music” back to aesthetic ideas, showing its contradictions but also confirming my own assessment that W’s crazy racism was more than mere racism and in fact a cultural critique, clothed in racist terms. Like explaining nazi barbarism by linking it to blond hair and blue eyes as it’s cause.

    There are three types of Wagner enthusiasts, as I have come to understand:

    a) the people who are touched by the profundity, complexity and expressive and humane beauty of the music and take the plots and staging as a bonus;

    b) the people who experience the operas / music dramas as theatrical works in the first place and see in the fussy and messy symbolism all the signs of social and political developments of the 19th and 20th century and see the music as a bonus;

    c) the people who fall for the unrestrained flow of endless music and mysterious, over-emotional happenings on stage and – without understanding anything of the goings-on either theatrically or musically – finally enjoy the dissolving of inhibitions that frustrate their own personal life to breaking point, within a safe and socially-acceptable public space.

    There is also a very minor group of altright Germanophile rightwing nationalists who enjoy the works nostalgically as expressions of historic teutonic power, now overwhelmed by coloured immigration, a bit in the way impoverished Russian landowners wept together in Parisian cafés after the disaster of 1917 – but they are dying-out.

  • a colleague says:

    Wagner is buried behind his home, the Wahnfried, in Bayrueth, not Venice, where he died…

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    The immortal words of John Culshaw: “Some of us are not very enthusiastic about Wagner enthusiasts.”

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Surprisingly many are Jews, even orthodox ones, The Bayreuth variant of the Stockholm syndrome?

      • John Borstlap says:

        According to the American (Jewish) musicologist and conductor Leon Botstein, the Jewish enhusiasm for Wagner was (and is) an attempt to be modern as a confirmation of assimilation: we are no longer really semitic so antisemitism does not concern us, and RW’s antisemitism is not directed at us, we have ‘destroyed’ or ‘overcome’ the Jewishness in us. At the time (2nd half 19C) ‘Jewishness’ was considered both ethnicity and world view. Botstein disapproves of people of Jewish descent who are not much interested in being Jewish; therefore he also condemned the (Jewish) writer Stefan Zweig for his assimilation into the European cultural elite. In 1982 he analysed the Jewish integration in European culture as being fake, naive, pointless etc. etc. It appears that Botstein thinks that Jewish identity has to bolster itself up strongly and take a stance against the entire world.

        (Meanwhile Zweig has enjoyed an enormous revival and is read again all over the world and his memoirs ‘Die Welt von Gestern’ again a bestseller.)

        While RW’s cultural critique is still relevant, the way he presented it in some of his writings – in racial terms – is rightly considered entirely wrong. People of Jewish descent who find their ethnicity important, and love Wagner music, thus struggle with the question where and how to place W’s antisemitism. Ignoring it and just enjoying the works, is one way of coping. Another way is understanding from whence it came and what he really meant by it, although that always remains vague and contradictory since he was not very good in writing.

    • Elisabeth Matesky says:

      Being an American musician one would caution modesty in ascribing 100%
      credibility to J. Botstein. Yes, he gets around and has knowledge yet Know
      without interior conflict is always Better ~

      Dame Gwyneth Jones, a longtime ago colleague/friend, has surprised some of us as she is displaying a certain integrity in standing up to her
      Bayreuth ‘Friends’ ~ As a profound Sage said, “It takes courage to stand
      up to one’s enemies, but greater courage to stand up to one’s friend’s ~ ”

      Bravo, dear Gwyneth, from Ralph’s daughter, ‘Ms. Introduction & Rondo
      Capriccioso’, just following your Beethoven ‘Ah, Perfido!’ in UK Pontypool!
      Only a violinist as you know, I’ll travel to Wherever for your superb vocal coaching which is fused with that of the late Madame Carpi ~

      My apologies to all contributor’s here if any offense has been committed ~

      Musically from *’Trump’ America ~

      E. M.

      *It might be classical to avoid likening U.S. Prexy Trump to Wagner’s dark
      side ~ Thank You with Best Wishes …