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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.

 

Upcoming Events

Wagner's Enduring Masterpiece: Tannhäuser
Wed, Dec 02
Webinar hosted by Oasis-fee $13.
Dec 02, 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM
Webinar hosted by Oasis-fee $13.
Tannhäuser has a unique place in Wagner’s creative history. Old warhorse, awkward hybrid, or prophetic precursor-it was all three, but has survived and thrived in standard repertory since 1861. Jim Holman will review Wagner's creative process and reveal the secret of success of this masterpiece.
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Ben Heppner Talks about Three of his Wagner Roles
Thu, Dec 10
Webinar via Zoom
Dec 10, 7:30 PM
Webinar via Zoom
Ben Heppner was perhaps the world's leading Wagnerian heldentenor from 1988 to 2014. In an interview with the celebrated analyst, Iain Scott, Heppner will focus on his approach to the roles of Lohengrin, Walter von Stolzing and Tristan.
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An Interview with author Alex Ross
Thu, Jan 14
Online event via Zoom; details coming soon!
Jan 14, 2021, 7:30 PM EST
Online event via Zoom; details coming soon!
WSWDC Chairman Jim Holman will interview Alex Ross about his new book, Wagnerism - Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, and about other Wagner topics, followed by audience q&a.
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Wildnis XXI: Lohengrin
Time is TBD
Cacapon Resort State Park
Time is TBD
Cacapon Resort State Park, 818 Cacapon Lodge Dr, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411, USA
This is a members-only event. More details to come.
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News

Interview with Alex Ross - coming January 14!

September 29, 2020

WSWDC Chairman Jim Holman will interview Alex Ross about Wagnerism and other things Wagner - check back for details and to register!

Our 2020 Newsletter is here!

August 31, 2020

We are pleased to announce the publication of our 2020 newsletter, available here.

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.

 
Orchestra Conductor on Stage

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.

 
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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.

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Luana DeVol

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

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.

Musician Playing Chello

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

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 legacy@wagner-dc.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.

Make a Donation

 
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"I write music with an exclamation point!”

Richard Wagner

 

Resources

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:

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

  • Jeffrey Swann's and Simon Williams' lectures from the 2017 Wildnis 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!!

 
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About

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
Bonnie Becker
Betty Byrne
Sabrina Cassagnol
Deborah Diamond
Jim Giragosian
Mark Golden
Frederic Harwood
Lynne Lambert
Helen McConnell
John Edward Niles
Guillermo Schultz

 

Contact The Wagner Society of Washington
DC

The Wagner Society of Washington DC
P.O. Box  11842
Washington DC  20008

703-370-1923

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703-370-1923

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