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Wagner Society is ‘ruled by fear’ in anti-Dame Gwyneth poll

Tempers are flaring among the British Wagnerites as the vote approaches to depose Dame Gwyneth Jones as president.

Dame Gwyneth has been invited to present her case on Friday in Edinburgh to the Wagner Society of Scotland. If she is deposed by the London clique, secession could be on the cards, a breakup of the Wagner union.




A former chair of the London Wagner Society, Jeremy Rowe, has written today to Slipped Disc, attacking the leaders of the putsch:

I am appalled at this treatment of Dame Gwyneth. I note:
1. She is a world leader in terms of her portrayal of major Wagnerian roles, and she has an important and pivotal relationship with Bayreuth. She should be seen as a asset to the society.
2. The London Society is the only Wagner Society in the world to cancel the Wagner Bursary Competition, a competition founded by Richard Wagner himself over 100 years ago. Their reason is ostensibly that it’s a waste of money. Past winners include many major stars – the bursary gave them an early fillip to their career. Every winner I know of has always said it was an excellent experience – career changing for some. The current Wag Soc committee plan to spend the money giving local training to young singers – nothing wrong with that, but it should be in addition to the Bayreuth Bursary – not instead of. Cancelling the bursary eliminates the opportunity for young singers to be seen on a world platform.
3. Dame Gywneth found out she is being treated this way from colleagues at Bayreuth who wanted to know what’s going on. When confronted, she had no idea what the London committee were doing.
4. The committee are organising a vote of no confidence in themselves; but voters have to put their name on voting papers, and the votes will be received and counted by a member of the committee. Thus they’ll have a list of Dame Gwyneth supporters, ie, anyone voting against them. There will be no independent scrutiny of this voting process.
5. As a former chair and long-time member of the committee, I have received numerous messages of support for Dame Gwyneth, and messages of outrage about the committee. The manner of the vote means that many members say they are hesitant to vote against the committee as the committee will then have a record of their vote.

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  1. PK Miller says:

    Wahn, wahn uberall wahn,” as Wagner’s Hans Sachs himself put it. This seems like a puerile fit of pique on the Society’s part. Dame Gwyneth is one of the foremost Wagnerian’s in the world. To sub her like this is unconscionable and an act of monumental insanity even for the Brits! Has no one ever heard of secret ballots? Who you vote for is no one’s business on/off the committee.

  2. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Until we know the nature of the committee’s gripe with Dame Gwyneth it’s impossible to comment.

  3. Opera Lover says:

    Putting aside those disagreements between the two sides, the fact the several blatant procedural abnormalities are discerned in that calling of vote is already casting deep suspicions over the committee’s motives and intention.

  4. Mike Schachter says:

    Kissinger said about academic disputes that they were so acrimonious because the stakes were so low. Same genre I think.

  5. What’s the point of a Wagner society anyway?

    The music speaks louder than meetings and titles…..

  6. Derek Watson says:

    As Chair of the Wagner Society of Scotland I’d like to confirm that Dame Gwyneth Jones is indeed giving an evening for us in Edinburgh tonight: but this is an interview celebrating her great career, and is not related to the present fuss over the London Wagner Society committee’s actions to oust her. Dame Gwyneth is an illustrious artist with a formidable career not only in Wagner roles, but over a wide versatile repertory, and I would like to endorse the excellent remarks made 2 days ago by Jeremy Rowe. For over a decade now our Scottish Society has independently sent a young music scholar to the Bayreuth Festival, and one of next season’s ROH Jette Parker Young Artists is our choice this year from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. All best wishes to her, and to Dame Gwyneth!

  7. Prewartreasure says:

    Let me add some meat to the above.

    As a member of the society (with some knowledge of what’s been going on behind the committee’s safety curtain) I can reveal that what is going on is not pretty, and it’s about to get uglier!

    In a nutshell the society have decided to stop holding and funding its principle annual event, called the ‘Bayreuth Bursary’, which in effect is a glorious singing competition for budding young performers (male or female) who possess a particular passion or voice for the Wagner repertoire.

    The winner of the said event (who is adjudged after Heats by a panel of professional singers) is sent off, expenses paid, to the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, where he or she is invited to perform in front of an international ‘jury’ (and other fringe benefits) Suffice to say that many, yes many, of today’s top opera singers have gone through this same procedure.Wagner Societies across the world (with the possible exception of the USA) regularly partake in this prestigious event.

    In fact it was devised by the composer himself more than 150 years ago.

    Dame Gwyneth Jones has been President of the London Wagner Society for 23 years.

    The role of President is not an executive position within the organisation. Presidents do not even sit on the committee, but in times past Gwyneth has been a valuable source of help, advice and guidance.

    Understandably she has an enormous circle of friends and contacts in the operatic world. The present chairman of the society has been in office only a few months (similarly the rest of the committee, with perhaps one exception) so they are all ‘Newbies’ in other words. (Their combined service in office is but a tiny fraction of that of their president.)

    In my view the committee have behaved abominably. The expression ‘rudeness in the extreme’ is inadequate to describe their appalling conduct. I cannot understand them and will never forgive their disloyalty.

    I do wonder whether the REAL reason the society wants rid of their President is because she is insisting on examining the society’s accounts – maybe because a previous treasurer (who shall remain nameless) fiddled the books and made-off with £thousands.

    Here is an extract from one of Gwyneth Jones’ several recent emails to the current chairman:

    “………I have been continually asking to see detailed
    accounts, without success and I have checked with Frau (edited by author) and other
    Wagner Societies, as to the normal procedure and have received confirmation
    that detailed accounts should be available to myself and the members. Therefore, I hereby ask officially for this issue to be discussed and corrected at the next AGM………..”

    And finally, the naughty old treasurer, when caught, repaid in full the money he had embezzled over the years, but for some illogical reason the society (acting on the advice of one its dinosaur members) decided AGAINST insisting their ex-treasurer was taken before a court.

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