Welcome to the Wagner Society of Washington DC
The fastest-growing society for the study and enjoyment of Wagner's art.
The Wagner Society of Washington, DC is one of the city’s most vibrant cultural institutions. We are proud to serve the Washington community in many ways – through monthly lectures, semi-annual concerts, and special events through a network of collaborating institutions such as the Smithsonian Institution, the German Embassy, and the Kennedy Center.
- Sun, Jan 09The Arts Club of WashingtonJan 09, 2022, 3:00 PMThe Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USAPianist Jeffrey Swann and the Wagner Society Chamber Players will perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K. 414; Maestro Swann will also perform a Wagner piano transcription, and the WSCP will play Schubert's String Quartet in D Major, D94.
- William Pastor: Three Pillars of Modern Western Culture: Wagner, Joyce and Proust.Coming in March 2022Arts Club of WashingtonComing in March 2022Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USAThe author elucidates Wagner’s enormous impact on modern literature, most specifically on Joyce's Ulysses and Proust's In Search of Lost Time. Three of Wagner’s innovations, leitmotifs, Endless Melody, and Gesamtkunstwerk played major roles in the authors’ presentations of time and the subconscious.
- Wildnis 2022: The Artist and Society - an Evolving ViewJune 3-5, 2022Cacapon Resort State Park
Happy Birthday, Jean!
November 19, 2021
We are fortunate to have some very loyal and generous members, including Jean Arnold, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday! Please enjoy this video that was produced in her honor with the help Katerina Souvorova, director of Bel Cantanti Opera. Special thanks to another loyal and generous member, Bob Misbin, who conceived of the project. Happy Birthday, Jean!!
Issachah Savage triumphs as Tannhaüser, onstage and livestream
October 25, 2021
Updated 11/19/2021: We hope you were able to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy one of Issachah's triumphant performances as Tannhaüser in October at the Los Angeles Opera.
American Wagner Project alumnus Issachah Savage has garnered high praise for his debut as Tannhaüser in Los Angeles on Saturday night. One reviewer wrote that he "commanded the stage with his rare and beautiful voice" and another called the performance a "feast for the ears." You can read a detailed review of his performance at the end of this article from parterre.com.
Issachah's success as Tannhaüser follows a string of outstanding performances in recent years. He swept the boards at Seattle's International Competition in 2014, taking the First Prize, Audience Prize, and Orchestra Favorite awards. His portrayals of Rienzi, Siegmund, and Lohengrin, among others, have deeply impressed both critics and audiences.
--The Washington Post's Anne Midgette wrote that Issachah ". . .has that rarest of instruments: a large voice of melting beauty." In the role of Rienzi, "he wielded it with ease and grace through a long night of singing, marshaling his energy wisely so that he had plenty to give where it counted, especially the Act V prayer, the evening's showpiece."
--Neil Crory of Musical Toronto, reviewing his performance as Siegmund, described Issachah's voice as "a lyric, unforced dramatic tenor, lighter in colour and yet powerful. . . The roaring ovation that greeted him when he walked out on stage for his curtain call was of a quality and pitch usually reserved for only the greatest of singers."
--The San Francisco Examiner's Janos Gereben said Issachah "brought the house down" with his performance as Lohengrin. According to Gereben, " 'Mein Lieber Schwan' was heldentenor par excellence -- trumpetlike, clear, open-throated, powerful."
Tannhäuser Live Stream from the LA Opera!
October 12, 2021
We are delighted to announce that one of our American Wagner Project alumni, Issachah Savage, will be debuting the role of Tannhäuser in a new Los Angeles Opera production that will premiere on October 16th. LA Opera will be live-streaming the performances on Sunday, October 24 and Wednesday, October 27 for a fee of $30. More information is available on the LA Opera web site, or by clicking here. We hope you'll be able to join us in supporting this very talented Heldentenor!
The Wound That Will Never Heal: An Allegorical Interpretation of Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung by Paul Heise
August 9, 2021
We are delighted to announce this new book to be released on September 1, 2021 by Academica Press! Its author, Paul Heise, is an internationally recognized author and specialist on Richard Wagner, as well as the creator of the website Wagnerheim, an invaluable resource for Wagnerians. The book may be purchased at the discounted price of $59.95 (rather than $100.00 from other booksellers) by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three Pillars of Modern Western Culture by William H. Pastor - click here to purchase!
April 29, 2021
We are delighted to announce the publication of a new book by one of our long-time members, Bill Pastor. Three Pillars of Modern Western Culture focuses on Wagner’s influence on two literary masterpieces of the early twentieth century: James Joyce’s Ulysses and Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. In particular, this work illustrates how the techniques and principles of leitmotifs, endless melody, and Gesamtkunstwerk are incorporated throughout Ulysses and In Search of Lost Time. Mr. Pastor's hope is to stimulate interest among music-loving Wagnerians to read the novels Ulysses and In Search of Lost Time and to stimulate interest among literary-loving Joyce and Proust enthusiasts to listen to the music of Wagner. For those in both camps, he hopes to enrich the appreciation of the historic and artistic connection between these three pillars of Western aesthetics and culture. For those not in any of these groups, this is an opportunity for a trifecta!
We hope you enjoyed Wagner and God!
April 16, 2021
We hope you enjoyed Wagner and God, hosted by Maestro Saul Lilienstein; please check our "Past Events" page for a link to a recording of this fascinating discussion!
Saul Lilienstein, a recipient of the Society's Wagner Award, is well-known to DC-area opera lovers. He has shared his expertise on a wide variety of Wagner-related topics with us. In 2020 he presented a webinar on "Fantasy and Reality in Wagner's Music Dramas." That lecture is available for re-viewing here.
The Wagner Society of England announces a full slate of Zoom events for 2021!
January 17, 2021
The Wagner Society of England has been holding a number of Zoom
interviews and lectures with many of the leading Wagnerian artists of
today and from the past 50 years, recent artists have included: Nina
Stemme, Brigitte Fassbaender, Stephen Gould, Sir John Tomlinson, Dame
Felicity Palmer, Dame Anne Evans, Dame Ann Murray, Rosalind Plowright,
Professor John Deathridge, Professor Raymond Holden, Dr Roger Allen,
This year they have upcoming talks by Stephen Brown (a 7 part series about
"Wagner at the Met from 1901-present), Jeffery McMillan on the Met
Database and Parsifal performance in the U.S and also American writer-
Paul Thomason on a variety of subjects (dates for Paul will be put on
the website shortly).
Triangle Wagner Society upcoming Zoom events!
December 7, 2020
Our friends at the Triangle Wagner Society have lined up six events for 2021. Please check their website for more details and to register!
Sunday, January 10, 2021, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.: Bryan Gilliam will present on "Tragedy, Epic, and Siegfried's Funeral Music in Götterdämmerung."
Sunday, February 7, 2021, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.: An Afternoon with Soprano Alexandra LoBianco.
Sunday, February 21, 2021, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.: Mark Evan Bonds, Ph.D., will present on “Hearing Music as Autobiography, from Beethoven to Wagner.”
Sunday, March 7, 2021, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.: An Afternoon with Baritone Sherrill Milnes.
Sunday, April 18, 2021, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.: Jeff Buller will present on “Man Goes on a Journey, or A Stranger Comes to Town: The Theme of the Journey in Wagner.”
Saturday, May 15, 2021, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.: Maestro William Curry will present on “Wagner and Antisemitism.”
July 21, 2020
Father Owen Lee -- He was revered by hundreds as a Catholic Basilian priest, esteemed by thousands as a Professor of Classics, and treasured by millions around the world for his three decades of brilliant radio broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera.
To mark the first anniversary of Father Lee's death (Saturday, July 25), Wagner scholar Iain Scott -- a close friend and associate of Father Lee -- has launched a new memorial website to honor his legacy.
The site contains seven video interviews, four audio playlists of his Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, some brief descriptions of his 21 books, and a selection of documents, both by and about him.
I hope you will find that it appropriately celebrates a great man.
Requiescas in pace, good Father.
The American Wagner Project
Identifying and promoting
the careers of unheralded American singers who have the capability to sing the Wagner canon.
With the support of the WSWDC, those selected came to Washington for coaching from Evelyn and Thomas to participate in a concert sponsored by the Society. The Society sponsored 24 Emerging Singers concerts, primarily at the German Embassy and the Arts Club of Washington DC. Other ESP concerts were held in cooperation with the Washington Chorus at the Kennedy Center (2011) and the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra (2008).
Over 700 singers applied to enter the ESP, and some 80 were selected. Program alumni include the dramatic soprano Jennifer Wilson, famed for her role as Brünnhilde in the Valencia Ring; the baritone Jason Stearns, who recently sang with the Met, the Chicago Lyric Opera, and the Baltimore Opera; and Jay Hunter Morris, who sang Siegfried in both the San Francisco Ring (2010) and the Metropolitan Opera Ring (2011-12). The program's other prominent Brünnhildes include Rebecca Team, who sang in the Opera Lübeck Ring, and Carolyn Whisnant, who sang for the Essen Oper and Karlshrue Rings.
The American Wagner Project and Institute for Young Dramatic Voices
In 2012, with the passing of Evelyn Lear, the Society entered into a partnership with the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, founded in 2006 by Dolora Zajick, Rosemary Matthews, and Sarah Agler. This partnership, called the American Wagner Project, will continue to support the ongoing training of future Wagnerian singers as well as present annual Wagner concerts in Washington along with a series of symposia. The great Wagnerian and voice teacher, Luana DeVol, is the Artistic Director of the American Wagner Project and heads the German program at the Institute. The Wagner Society’s John Edward Niles will serve as director. The Society will provide support for Ms. DeVol to coach the German repertoire and provide acting and language instruction. Issachah Savage, who recently performed a solo concert at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, is the first singer under the American Wagner Project.
We anticipate that the American Wagner Project will continue the mission of the ESP in identifying and supporting American singers who have the capability of singing the Wagner canon. We plan to hold annual or semi-annual auditions for the American Wagner Project, and those selected will attend the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. In addition, the Wagner Society will award an annual stipend to one or more American singers selected for the American Wagner Project. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Ms. DeVol, the American Wagner Project, Ms. Zajick, and the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices.
Are You a Singer Who Might Be Ready to Sing Wagner?
Applications for the Emerging Singers Program will now be made directly through the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. For additional information on the Institute, click here. For application instructions, click here.
For additional details on the American Wagner Project, click here.
In the Beginning - The Emerging Singers Program
In 1999, The Wagner Society of Washington DC joined with famed baritone Thomas Stewart, the most prominent Wotan of his generation, and his wife, the soprano Evelyn Lear, who was a prominent Lulu of her generation, to establish the Thomas Stewart and Evelyn Lear Emerging Singers Program. The mission of the program, as described by Maestro John Edward Niles, the program’s coordinator, was to identify and promote the careers of unheralded American singers who had the capability to sing the Wagner canon.
The American Wagner Project and Institute for Young Dramatic Voices
In 2012, with the passing of Evelyn Lear, the Society entered into a partnership with the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, founded in 2006 by Dolora Zajick, Rosemary Matthews, and Sarah Agler. This partnership, called the American Wagner Project, will continue to support the ongoing training of future Wagnerian singers as well as present annual Wagner concerts in Washington along with a series of symposia. The great Wagnerian and voice teacher, Luana DeVol, is the Artistic Director of the American Wagner Project and heads the German program at the Institute. The Wagner Society’s John Edward Niles serves as director. The Society provides support for Ms. DeVol to coach the German repertoire and provide acting and language instruction. Issachah Savage, who recently performed a solo concert at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, is the first singer under the American Wagner Project.
The great Wagnerian and voice teacher, Luana DeVol, is the Artistic Director of the American Wagner Project and heads the German program at the Institute. The Wagner Society’s John Edward Niles will serve as director. The Society will provide support for Ms. DeVol to coach the German repertoire and provide acting and language instruction.
Dolora Zajick is the General Director of the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, which she created in 2006 to address the lack of training for large, dramatic voices required for the great roles of the Verdi, Strauss and Wagner repertoire. Read more about Dolora here.
Make a Donation
The many events, projects, and initiatives of the Wagner Society of Washington DC--including our sponsorship of emerging Wagner singers--are realities because of the generous contributions of our donors. Won't you consider participting in this important effort to support the Wagnerian tradition?
All contributions are tax-deductible. WSWDC thanks you in advance for your generous support!
Make a Lasting Impact with a Future Gift to the Wagner Society of Washington DC
You can ensure that our organization is able to support our mission for years to come through a gift that costs you nothing today!
Making a planned gift is one of the simplest ways to show your support and appreciation for the Wagner Society. After your lifetime, your gift will continue to support a cause that has been important to you and will extend the legacy of your interest and values.
Types of planned gifts include:
Gifts through your will
Gifts from revocable trusts
Gifts from irrevocable trusts
Gifts from retirement plans
Gifts of life insurance policies
When including the Wagner Society in your plans, you will become a member of our Valhalla Society, and, more importantly, you will play a crucial role in helping us continue to bring the music of Richard Wagner to countless DC residents and beyond!
If you have already included the Wagner Society in your estate planning, or if you would like more information on how to plan the best charitable gift for you, please contact us at email@example.com. All inquiries confidential. There are various options for this, including:
A Bequest: Will or Revocable Trust is one of the most common types of legacy gifts to support the Wagner Society of Washington DC.
Benefits to you:
It is not payable until death, so it does not affect your assets or cash flow during your lifetime.
It is revocable—you can change the provisions in your will or trust at any time.
It may help minimize estate tax or avoid tax burden for heirs.
There are several ways to control how your bequest is distributed:
Specific bequests allow you to name a specific dollar amount or named asset.
Residuary bequests let you leave all or a percentage of what is left in your estate after specific requests, debts, expenses, and taxes have been fulfilled.
Contingent bequests are fulfilled only if certain conditions are met.
How it works:
Schedule a meeting with your attorney to review your options and determine the best estate plan vehicle for you based on your personal circumstances and goals.
Your attorney will prepare the document including your charitable intentions while using the Society’s official language.
If you have already written a will or trust, it can be amended by your attorney by writing a codicil to include a new bequest, such as a bequest to the Wagner Society, while reaffirming the other terms in your will. Similarly, an attorney can prepare an amendment to a revocable trust.
Retirement Plan - consider naming the Wagner Society of Washington DC as a full or partial beneficiary of your IRA, 401(k), or of another qualified retirement plan.
Benefits to you:
You can continue to take withdrawals through your life.
If your circumstances change, you may change beneficiaries at any time.
You and your heirs can avoid both income and estate taxes on the residue left in your retirement account.
How it works:
Using the official Wagner Society of Washington DC name and address, name the Society as a beneficiary on the account.
Contact the financial institution and complete the necessary beneficiary designation form.
After your lifetime, the financial institution will contact the Wagner Society and the gift will be distributed according to your instructions as completed on the beneficiary designation form.
Assets pass to the Wagner Society, tax-free.
Life Insurance - Consider naming the Wagner Society of Washington DC as a primary beneficiary of your life insurance policy, or as a contingent beneficiary should your other beneficiaries not survive you.
Benefits to you:
You can make a significant gift from income instead of from capital assets.
If your circumstances change, you may change beneficiaries at any time.
You will be able to claim an income tax deduction.
You can remove an asset from your potential gross taxable estate.
How it works:
Using the official Wagner Society of Washington DC name and address, name the Society as beneficiary of a policy.
Contact the insurance company and complete the necessary beneficiary designation form.
After your lifetime, the insurance company will contact the Wagner Society and the gift will be distributed according to your instructions as completed on the beneficiary designation form.
Assets pass to the Wagner Society, free of federal estate tax.
Additional Types of Beneficiary Designations
You may choose to designate the Wagner Society as the beneficiary of a variety of assets including insurance policies, retirement plans (IRA, 403(b)/commercial annuity/pension), and financial accounts (bank accounts/CDs/savings bonds).
Because many of these assets may be subject to income and estate taxes when left to heirs, leaving them to the Society can be a simple, smart and tax efficient way to make your legacy gift.
Thank you for your interest in including the Wagner Society of Washington DC in your estate plans!
Each year, the Wagner Society shares the music of Richard Wagner through study and performance to residents of the Washington metropolitan area at the highest artistic standards. We could not fulfill our mission of promoting the careers of today’s most promising young singers of Wagner or run our educational programs without your contributions!
Disclaimer: As a reminder, the Wagner Society of Washington DC is providing general information only, and does not provide financial counseling or estate planning advice. For tax or legal advice, please consult with a financial advisor or an attorney. It is important to schedule a meeting with your attorney, discuss your wishes and make decisions based on your personal circumstances and to add the correct legal language to your document.
Make a Donation
"I write music with an exclamation point!”
More resources to enjoy at your leisure.
Saul Lilienstein's Commentaries on Wagner!
While so many opera performances and events have been postponed or moved online, Maestro Saul Lilienstein has generously permitted us to share his commentaries on several of Wagner's operas - we will post these as soon as we can.
And remember, the complete Wildnis lectures for eight of Wagner's ten "mature" operas are available here!
Wagner Institute at Miami Classical Music Festival
Please note that the Miami Wagner Institute at the Miami Classical Music Festival has postponed its 2020 program to 2021. Click here for additional details.
Met Parsifal - Available Online!
The Metropolitan Opera's 2013 presentation of François Girard's production of Parsifal is available at the following links:
To add to your enjoyment, the following resources are also available:
Saul Lilienstein's commentary (we are working on this)
Jeffrey Swann's and Simon Williams' lectures from the 2017 Wildnis - Parsifal weekend
Jeffrey Swann's 2018 lecture at the Wagner Society of New York
Memorable quotes on Wagner and Parsifal
The Met's Playbill from the 2013 performance
Parsifal in Italian! RAI, 1950, with Maria Callas as Kundry! (See the notes on the YouTube page--one of the discs was uploaded twice!)
When you use Amazon for your holiday shopping--or ANY shopping throughout the year--SMILE and let Amazon donate a portion of what you spend to WSWDC ... at no additional cost to you! The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the organization of your choice! Here's all you need to do to designate WSWDC on AmazonSmile:
Use your regular Amazon login credentials to log onto Amazon at this web address: smile.amazon.com.
Once you are logged in, Amazon will suggest an organization to receive a portion of what you spend on the site. The organization's name will appear in the upper left portion of your screen.
To change the organization to WSWDC, click the name of the organization with your mouse, and then click Change.
In the field that lets you pick your own charitable organization, enter Wagner Society of Washington DC and click Search.
When WSWDC appears in the search results, click Select. You need to do this only once. AmazonSmile will remember WSWDC each time you log in.
Remember that a portion of your spending will go to WSWDC only when you log onto Amazon using the smile.amazon.com web address.
Thank you for your support!!
Who We Are
The Wagner Society of Washington, DC is one of the city's most vibrant cultural institutions. We are proud to serve the Washington community in many ways - through monthly lectures, semi-annual concerts, and special events through a network of collaborating institutions such as the German Embassy, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Smithsonian Institution. Now in our 20th year, the Wagner Society is dedicated to two principal goals:
1. To enrich the cultural life of the Washington metropolitan area by regularly providing the general public with lectures, concerts, opera performances, trips, and special events;
2. To assist the development of American singers who have demonstrated the potential for successful careers in opera.
In May of 1998 a small group of Wagner enthusiasts met to create a Wagner Society for Washington, DC. Aurelius Fernandez, who became our first president, and Barbara Karn, Janice Rosen and R.G. Head asked Jim Holman to join the steering committee as Chairman; in short order they recruited John Edward Niles, Phil Raines, Tom Arthur, and then Betty Byrne and John Pohanka, among others. The first meeting was held in the back room of Middle C music store. Professor Don Crosby, a Wagner Award recipient, presented "The Literary Sources of Tristan und Isolde." Fewer than 20 were in attendance.
It was our good fortune that Wolfgang Wagner, Artistic Director of the Bayreuth Festival and Richard Wagner's grandson, and his wife Gudrun were in Washington in February 1999 to attend the Washington National Opera's Tristan und Isolde. Wolfgang gave an address to WNO, and afterwards Jim invited the Wagners to lunch with Aury, Barb, and RG. The conversation turned to Bayreuth and in a stunning act of bravado our group asked the Wagners for an allotment of tickets; without blinking an eye, Gudrun said yes. In a few months, sets of tickets for the Rings plus other Bayreuth productions arrived in the mail. In our twenty-plus over 400 members and friends have made the Bayreuth pilgrimage in a relationship now carried forward through the Richard Wagner Verband International Association.
The Emerging Singers Program was founded a year later when John Edward Niles proposed a partnership between the Society and the famous Wagnerian baritone Thomas Stewart and his wife, soprano Evelyn Lear, who had recently moved to Washington. With Jim Holman they created a program to nurture Americans with the potential to sing the Wagner canon.
Alumni of the ESP, and its successor the American Wagner Project, include Jay Hunter Morris (2001), Siegfried in the recent San Francisco Opera and Metropolitan Opera Rings; Jennifer Wilson (2001, 2004) Brunnhilde in the Valencia and Florence Rings; Daniel Brenna (2005), Siegfried in the recent WNO Ring and Alea in the recent Metropolitan Opera Lulu; Rebecca Teem (2005, 2007) Brunnhilde in the Lubeck, Germany Ring and Berlin's Deutsch Oper; Issachah Savage (2012, 2013), who won first prize at the 2014 Seattle International Wagner Fesitval; and Solomon Howard (2015), Fafner in the 2016 WNO Ring.
Wagner in der Wildnis formed in 2001 when members Barb Karn suggested a scholarly retreat to explore a single Wagner opera. Her idea was championed by Aurelius Fernandez and Betty Byrne. Barb and Betty secured the Cacapon, WV site. Today, coordinated by Lynne Lambert and Sabrina Cassagnol, Wildnis draws 70 enthusiasts to Cacapon Resort State Park in Berkeley Springs, WV, to hear presentations by Simon Williams, Professor of Dramatic Arts at UC-Santa Barbara, and Jeffrey Swann, concert pianist and esteemed Wagnerian. Wildnis is in its 20th year.
We have presented The Wagner Award to 15 scholars and artists who have made extraordinary contributions to the enjoyment and understanding of Wagner's art. The honorees include Prof. Donald Crosby, John Pohanka, Jay Hunter Morris, Jennifer Wilson, Francesca Zambello, Jeffrey Swann, Saul Lilienstein, baritone James Morris, Thomas Stewart and Evelyn Lear, and Maestro Philippe Auguin.
Board of Directors
James K. Holman, Chairman
John Edward Niles