At the 2015 Wagner Congress in Dessau, Horst Eggers was elected President of the Richard-Wagner-Verband-International e.V (International Association of the Wagner Societies).
RWVI which is headquartered in Bayreuth has 131 member societies around the world, concentrated mainly in Germany but some in far-flung locations such as Hawaii, Boston and Tokyo and Cuba.
When RWA(S) first mentioned our aspiration to stage the first-ever Wagner opera in Singapore in 2015, Horst wrote us a strong letter of support which helped open doors to arts promotion agencies and our donors. RWVI and our sister societies are supporting “The Flying Dutchman” in significant ways: – artistic inputs from RWVI Vice-President Mrs. Alessandra Althoff-Pugliese who helped cast and coach our international leads, access to the finalists of the triennial International Singing Competition for Wagner Voices; and the promotion of our “The Flying Dutchman” opera among overseas Wagnerians nearly thirty of whom will be here to to catch it.
Horst Eggers will visit Singapore on 21 – 24 October 2016 to grace our Singapore Premiere (International Cast) on Sunday, 23 October 2016. Ahead of his visit, President RWA(S) Juliana Lim asked him to share his Wagnerian journey.
JL: When was your first Wagner Moment and what was it like?
HE: When I was only 6 years old, I got my first violin lessons from my grandfather and often visited with him symphony concerts offered at the time in Bayreuth i.e. the famous Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. With that, I became a great lover of the symphonic works by Beethoven and Bruckner.
Only later, at the age of 16, I got a record of “The Flying Dutchman”. That was my first contact with the music of Richard Wagner.
JL: When did you watch your first full Wagner opera and what was your experience of it?
HE: I experienced my first Wagner opera in 1964 at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (festival opera house). My then-girlfriend and later my wife had a summer job as “Blue Girl” (as the lady-ushers were called because they wore blue suits at that time) at the Festspielhaus. From time to time, she could take me in when closing the door to sit on the stairs. That’s how I saw the “Meistersinger” (with Jess Thomas and Anja Silia) and later, parts of the “Ring” (with Theo Adam and Astrid Varnay) the first time. From this point on, in 1964, I was thrilled by the music of Richard Wagner.
JL: Which is your favourite Wagner opera and why?
HE: Over time, I had changing favorite operas of Wagner. What fascinated me most was the “century-Ring” (Patrice Cherau, Pierre Boulez, Donald McIntyre)* which I enjoyed in each festival year from 1976 – 1980.
JL: Can you share about your various roles in promoting the Wagner legacy? What is your vision for the future of RWVI and how will RWVI achieve it?
HE: In 2015, I placed myself at disposal for the presidency when the RWVI underwent a complicated phase, in order to restore calm in the association and to focus again on the statutory tasks of RWVI. This has been accomplished, as manifest by the Annual General Meeting in Strasbourg on 6 May 2016. Over the last two years, some great RW associations, who had left previously, have also re-joined the RWVI family.
Our Secretary Prof. Günter Cisek largely relieves me of the daily correspondences and administrative work. We also make preparations for the annual International Congress and the Assembly of Delegates, the conferences of the RWVI executive committee and various events of the RW associations.
I am also Deputy Chairman of the Stipendienstiftung (Scholarship Foundation)# and a member of the Board of Trustees of the “Gesellschaft der Freunde Bayreuth” (Society of Bayreuth Friends). Furthermore, I lead regular discussions with the festival management, especially at the moment concerning the ticketing policy for 2017.
As President of the Society of Friends of Bayreuth University, I also have a lot of obligations as well as due to my former occupation as CEO of the HWK (Council of Craftsmanship) Upper Franconia. My wife is very supportive of the work I am doing.
JL: If you could have a meal with Richard Wagner, where would you take him, what would you eat and what would you like to say to him?
HE: Richard Wagner was well-known as a lover of Bayreuth beer. I therefore would invite him into the restaurant “Eule” (Owl) that he frequented. During a course of a typical meal of Bayreuth roast pork with dumplings, I would tell him about his “fan club”, the RWVI and its activities. I would congratulate him for his visions of the “Festspiele” and for his idea of the “Stipendienstiftung” (scholarship foundation) that he launched in his life-time. And I would tell him how proud he should be that his life’s work and the festival are still run by his family members with great success.
* The iconic Centenary “Ring of the Nibelung” (www.mostlyopera.blogspot.sg) staged in Bayreuth in 1980, marked the 100th year of the world premiere performance of the Ring Cycle. Commissioned by Wolfgang Wagner (father to Eva and Katherina Wagner), it was conducted by Pierre Boulez and directed by Patrice Cherau and featured legendary singers like Donald McIntyre [Wotan] and Gwyneth Jones [Brunnhilde].
#The Richard Wagner Stipendienstiftung (Scholarship Foundation) awards stipends to about 250 young musicians from around the world annually. These stipends subsidize the costs of the musicians’ five-day stay at the Bayreuth Festival where they fraternize, watch three operas with a select few performing a Stipenditiumkoncert).
(Story & photos by Juliana Lim)