Playing with Fire: The Pursuit of a Wagner Performance Tradition in Adelaide in the Decade 1995-2005, and Factors Impeding its Realisation

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Emmerson, Stephen

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Mackerras, Colin

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2016
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Abstract

The productions of the Ring in Adelaide in 1998 and 2004 and Parsifal in 2001 were landmarks in Australia’s cultural history. They were artistically successful, attracted considerable commercial benefits to South Australia and generated nationwide expectations of further performances. Yet those expectations went unfulfilled. The success of Adelaide’s Wagner decade had depended on an effective combination of artistic vision, management skills, politics and patronage. This thesis is an analysis of those factors and the extent to which they at first enabled and then jeopardised the dream of an on-going Wagner performance tradition in the South Australian capital. Politics provided the incentive for this venture when the South Australian Government sought to achieve a major ‘cultural tourism’ success in the wake of a major ‘sports tourism’ calamity - the loss of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix to Victoria. The goal of emulating the ‘Wagnerian’ city of Seattle was also embraced at the political level. The General Director of the State Opera of South Australia (SOSA), Bill Gillespie, recommended the hiring of a Paris production of the Ring for restaging in Adelaide in 1998. A dedicated Ring Corporation was established to oversee the production, and the outcome was a notable success. Performances of Parsifal (the first staging of this work in Australia) which followed in 2001, confirmed that the pursuit of a Wagner performance tradition in Adelaide was a viable goal.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

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Queensland Conservatorium

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883

Adelaide’s Wagner decade

Wagner's Ring

Classical music, Adelaide

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