The Wagner Award

The Society formally recognizes notables in the opera world who have made extraordinary contributions to the study and enjoyment of Richard Wagner’s art. Eleven persons have been so honored by the Society at award banquets and galas.

Martin Feinstein. Impresario. The late General Director of the Washington National Opera made a singular contribution to developing the staging of opera in the nation’s capital, including the works of Richard Wagner. For this reason, he was the logical first recipient of the Award in June 1999, just before the Society’s first anniversary.

Thomas Stewart. Bass Baritone. He was deservedly Herbert von Karajan’s Wotan of choice at a time when both were at the height of their musical careers. In retirement after a triumphant international opera career, Tom Stewart settled in the Washington DC area with his wife Evelyn Lear. Together, they co-founded the Emerging Singers Program, named in their honor, a partnership with the Wagner Society of Washington DC. Tom received the Award in May 2000. We continue to mourn his untimely death in September 2006.

Placido Domingo. Tenor. The opera world’s foremost living tenor, he has sung the role of Sigmund in opera houses throughout the world, and, with Nina Stemme, recorded an acclaimed studio version of Tristan und Isolde in 2005.He is the General Director of the Washington National Opera and the Los Angeles Opera. He accepted the Award in April 2001; a filmclip of the award ceremony was screened for members at the Society’s June 2001 banquet.

Fr. M. Owen Lee. Critic and Author. Professor of Classics at the University of Toronto, Father Lee is author of Wagner’s Ring:Turning the SkyAround, books on Horace and Virgil, as well as more than a hundred articles on both classical andmusical subjects. He was a frequent guest on the Metropolitan Opera/Texaco radio broadcasts.He accepted the award in December 2001.

Maestro Heinz Fricke. Music Director ofthe Washington National Opera, he made his company debut in 1992 conducting The Flying Dutchman, and shortly thereafter, in 1993, was named the company’s music director. His international reputation as a Wagner conductor, and his extensive discography, have placed him in the pantheon of great conductors. He accepted the Award in May 2002.The 60th anniversary of his conducting career was celebrated in May 2006 at an event hosted by German Ambassador Klaus Scharioth.

Evelyn Lear. Soprano.An internationally celebrated soprano on the opera stages in Europe and the U.S., she is widely acclaimed for her interpretation of the German repertoire, especially Strauss, Mozart, and Berg. With her husband Thomas Stewart she co-founded the Emerging Singers Program (ESP) named in their honor, a partnership with the WSWDC. Ms. Lear generously continues to serve as Artistic Director of the Program, which she has taken to increased prominence and influence. She accepted the award in June 2003.

Saul Lilienstein. A conductor and musicologist who studied with Leonard Bernstein, Maestro Lilienstein has developed an impressive career in theWashington area as a lecturer for the Society, the Smithsonian Institution’s Resident Associates Program, and other arts organizations. Each Washington National Opera season, he records commentaries of the season’s operas. His commentaries onWagner’s operas are especially prized. He accepted the award in June 2004 at the banquet at the Arts Club.

James Morris. Bass Baritone. The leading Wotan and Hans Sachs of his generation, Mr. Morris is in many respects the heir to Thomas Stewart.Writing in the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini noted that Morris was “born to sing Wotan.” He has sung Wotan in productions at the Met, the Vienna State Opera, and the Deutsche Oper, and he has recorded The Ring for Deutsche Grammaphon with James Levine, and for EMI with BernardHaitnik.He is a native of Baltimore and attended the Peabody Conservatory. He accepted the award at the Society’s 2005 Gala Benefit.

Jeffrey Swann. Pianist. An internationally famous pianist, he completed his doctoral dissertation at Julliard on Richard Wagner. He is especially prized by the Society for his lecture-demonstrations at the annual Wagner in der Wildnis weekend retreats and at the concerts he has presented each year. Since 2005 his concerts have inaugurated the Society’s autumn program season. He accepted the Award in June 2007 at a festive awards ceremony at the Arts Club, Washington DC.

John Pohanka has worked in the automotive industry for over 50 years, serving as president and chairman of the Pohanka Automotive Group, past president of the naional automobile dealers association, and co-founder of the national institute for automotive service excellence. He has served on the board of the Washington National Opera, which he chaired from 2008-2010, and was instrumental in bringing Wagner productions to WNO, including the 2007-2010 Ring directed by Francesca Zambello. He is a founding member of the Wagner Society of Washington DC, and author of Wagner the Mystic, published by the Wagner Society in 2010.

Donald Crosby gave the first WSWDC lecture. Subsequent presentations included: "Sigurd und Brynhildt," "Wagner in His Cultural Context," "Tristan and Isolde: Debt to German Literary Romanticism," "Wagner and the German Tradition," and "Wagner in Switzerland." With a Ph.D from Princeton, he received four Fulbright Fellowships to Germany. He was on the faculty of Indiana University, University of Kansas, Dartmouth, and the University of Connecticut. He also used his knowledge of German language and culture doing Cold War intelligence work for the National Security Agency. After retirement, Crosby taught courses for the Smithsonian and Johns Hopkins University and lectured for the Goethe Society and several embassies. For his scholarship, his work as an educator, and his contributions to the understanding and enjoyment of Wagner's art, the society was proud to honor Dr. Donald Crosby with the Wagner Award in 2011.

Francesca Zambello is the Artistic Director of Washington National Opera. She has directed many WNO productions, including Die Walküre (2003 and 2007), Das Rheingold (2006), and Siegfried (2009). An internationally recognized director of opera and theater, her work has been seen at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, the Bolshoi, Royal Opera House, Munich State Opera, and Opéra National de Paris among others. She has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, Juilliard, and Yale. She has been awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government and the Russian Federation's medal for Service to Culture. Her theatrical honors include three Olivier Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, two French Grand Prix des Critiques, Helpmann Award, Green Room Award, Palme d'Or in Germany, and the Golden Mask in Russia. The Wagner Society was proud to add the Wagner Award to her impressive list of accomplishments in 2013.

Special Award

Gerry Permanwas honored at the Society’s 2007 Gala in recognition of his pioneering work in creating and managing the Vocal Arts Society of Washington DC.