Welcome to the Wagner Society of Washington DC
The 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.
- Thu, Jan 11Arts Club of WashingtonJan 11, 2024, 7:30 PMArts Club of Washington, 2017 I St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
25th Anniversary Newsletter!
September 27, 2023
Our 25th anniversary newsletter is now available on our site! It wouldn't exist without the herculean efforts of our devoted and indefatigable board member Frederic Harwood. Please take a look and let us know what you think. Thank you, dear Frederic!
The Ring in Australia!
September 26, 2023
The Ring Cycle will be performed three times between December 1 – 21, 2023. German tenor Stefan Vinke will be headlining the event as Siegfried; American soprano Lise Lindstrom will perform Brünnhilde. Both singers have played these roles before to huge acclaim. Maestro Philippe Augin will conduct director Chen Shi-Zeng's futuristic, immersive production. Watch a promotional video here.
Additional details and tickets available here.
Opera Australia has a select travel partner who can assist with travel arrangements: Downunder Endeavors – USA.
Virginia Opera presents Siegfried!
September 5, 2023
For DC-area audiences, Virginia Opera will perform Jonathan Dove’s adaptation of Wagner’s Siegfried at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts in Fairfax. WSWDC is pleased to help underwrite this production. Performances will take place on Saturday, October 7 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, October 8 at 2 pm.
Norfolk performances will take place on September 29 and October 1st.
Richmond performances will take place on October 13 and 15.
For detailed information and to purchase tickets, please click here.
Be sure to register for WSWDC Chairman Jim Holman's conversation with Adam Turner taking place on Thursday, September 21st! Adam Turner is conductor of the Virginia Opera, and will discuss the challenges he and innovative director Joachim Schamberger overcame in presenting this challenging opera. This conversation will be streamed via Zoom so you don't have to be in the DC area to join us! Please register in our Events section above, or click here.
Miami Music Festival's Das Rheingold now on Vimeo!
September 1, 2022
We are delighted that the Miami Music Festival's production of Das Rheingold is now available for viewing on Vimeo by clicking here. This is a wonderful opportunity to see young Wagnerian singers. With the exception of the role of Mime, all singers are performing their roles for the first time. In-depth training was provided by the wonderful Wagner veterans Dolora Zajick and Luana DeVol who also run our American Wagner Project.
Bill Pastor's Three Pillars of Modern Western Culture - book review
January 25, 2022
Deb Diamond, one of our board members, has written a thoughtful review of Bill Pastor's Three Pillars of Modern Western Culture. Click here to read it, and check our Events section to register for Bill's talk scheduled for March 10th. It is sure to be fascinating!
Soloman Howard - Washington Performing Arts' 2021 Ambassador of the Arts!
January 4, 2022
Washington Performing Arts’ Ambassador of the Arts Award was created in 2013, annually recognizing extraordinary achievement, service, and advocacy in the performing arts by an individual. Past winners have included Jessye Norman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Midori. For 2021, WPA has presented the Ambassador of the Arts Award to bass and advocate for social justice Soloman Howard, one of our American Wagner Project singers!
From his formative years in the 1990s, singing in our Children of the Gospel Choir, to his current status as a celebrated performer on the world’s most esteemed operatic stages, Soloman Howard has been a voice not only for artistic excellence but for inclusivity, working to share the arts with ever larger and more widespread audiences.
Upon receiving the award, Howard remarked, “What an honor it is to be named Washington Performing Arts’ 2021 Ambassador of the Arts. Washington Performing Arts is special to me for several reasons: it’s the organization that gave me the platform that I needed to thrive; I learned and grew from my experiences there; it kept me in an environment that was safe for me to express my diversity as an artist; and it put me on big stages for major moments in history across the world. Those reasons make Washington Performing Arts a part of my heart and legacy—forever.”
Learn more about Soloman and this award here.
A review of Paul Heise's The Wound That Will Never Heal.
December 13, 2021
Our own Bill Pastor has provided us with a thorough and thought-provoking review of Paul Heise's scholarly work, The Wound That Would Never Heal: An Allegorical Interpretation of the Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung. The book may be purchased at the discounted price of $59.95 (rather than $100.00 from other book sellers) by sending an email to email@example.com.
The review is available here.
Three Wagner Books by Jeffrey L. Buller
December 13, 2021
As we all know, Wagner is a topic of endless fascination! Wagner scholar Jeffrey Buller is well known to society members for his entertaining and insightful lectures. Please take note of three of his latest publications - there is something for everyone!
The second edition of Classically Romantic:Classical Forms and Meaning in Wagner's Ring. What did Richard Wagner know about ancient Greece? More importantly, what did he think he knew? How did Wagner’s attitudes about classical tragedy shape the Ring cycle? This is the book that discusses how leitmotivs don’t exist in Wagner’s music alone but also in certain patterns of alliteration, colors, and types of characters that function in ways very similar to in ways similar to musical leitmotivs. Classically Romantic is available as a paperback for $15.00 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and as an ebook for $6.00 from Apple Books.
Die, Meistersinger! is a light-hearted, “cozy” mystery with an operatic theme. When a tenor is murdered only days before the annual opera festival begins in the tiny European duchy of Allemonde, it’s up to Chief Inspector D. T. Giovanni to find the culprit. Unfortunately for Giovanni, everyone seems to have a motive and no one thinks he’s up to the challenge in this adventure that’s full of so many twists and turns it becomes a mystery on an operatic scale. The book is available as a paperback for $14.50 from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or an ebook for $5.99 from Apple Books.
Eternal Dreamer: The Imagery of Richard Wagner is based on the series of lectures Jeffrey Buller gave at Bayreuth. As one of the rare opera composers who wrote their own libretti, Wagner controlled what an audience heard, not only in his music, but also in the sound of his text. As a complete man of the theater, Wagner controlled (at least whenever he could) the lighting, set design, and costumes that an audience saw on the stage. The result was that a number of images—including sleep, dreams, storms, the potion, the significant glance, and the journey—reappear throughout Wagner’s mature works and are crucial to an appreciation of his artistry. Each of the ten music dramas included in Wagner’s “Bayreuth corpus” is discussed in detail, along with plenty of fresh insights for even the most seasoned admirer of the composer’s work. It is available as a paperback for $18.50 from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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."
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!
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!
Planned Giving - The Valhalla Society
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
"I write music with an exclamation point!”
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 2016 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 22nd 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