Welcome to
The Wagner Society of America
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Upcoming 2016 Events

Sunday, October 23

Anette Isaacs, Historian

Wagner and Ludwig

German historian, ANETTE ISAACS, will present “MAD” KING LUDWIG OF BAVARIA: INSIDE THE LIFE AND MIND OF GERMANY’S AIRYTALE KING. This past March Anette gave us a fascinating presentation on Ludwig and Wagner. For those of you who attended that lecture there is only 20 to 25 % overlap.  For the rest of you don’t miss her!

Orrington Hotel – John Evans Room
1710 Orrington Avenue
Times: 3:00 pm Reception 3:30 pm Program
Cost: FREE (Refreshments available in hotel) Reservations not required
Parking: Free in lots and metered spaces on Sundays. Valet parking is available.
For latest information, contact:
William R. T. Smith
P. O. Box 514
Wilmette, IL 60091.
Questions: 847-256-1292 Day or Evening
Guests are always welcome!
Save the date: Sunday, December 4th – Holiday Luncheon Event

Prior 2016 Events


Sunday, May 22nd

 Wagner Birthday Luncheon and Program


Margaret Jane Wray, Soprano
Laurann Gilley, Piano

Margaret Jane Wray
Michigan Shores Club
911 Michigan Avenue
Wilmette, IL
12:00 Noon Reception
1:00 PM Program
2:00 PM Luncheon

MARGARET JANE WRAY, soprano. Margaret will be sharing with us some of her immense Wagner repertory. She was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in 1985. In 1989 she won the Richard Tucker Foundation award. Her Wagnerian roles include Elisabeth, Elsa, Eva, Gutrune, Ortrud, Sieglinde, Senta, and the Third Norn as well as Adriano in Rienzi. She has performed at many of the great opera houses and symphonies around the world. Last fall she was one of the judges for the Illinois District of the Metropolitan Opera auditions and did a master class the following day. 
Pianist Laurann Gilley, a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago staff, will accompany Margaret.  She is also an accompanist for the Illinois District and Central Region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Wednesday, April 27

Christian Ketter, Tenor
Pedro Yanez, Piano

Wagner and Ludwig

1335 S. Michigan Avenue

7:00 PM  Reception
7:30 PM  Program

Parking: Parking Lot directly across (west side of street) from Pianoforte

Tenor Christian Ketter, made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2014, as featured in the Washington Post, as part of “The Song Continues” with American Mezzo-Soprano Marilyn Horne. The 2013 winner of the Friedrich Schorr American Prize in Voice, Mr. Ketter has appeared as the tenor soloist with the Chicago Bar Symphony Orchestra & Chorus- in Bruckner’s Te Deum, making his Symphony Center debut with the orchestra again in 2015 at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. Mr. Ketter’s debut classical recording “Beloved” - features all original arrangements of song literature, spanning a broad array of languages and styles, available online at iTunes and Amazon.
A frequent recitalist, Mr. Ketter was invited to Northwestern University of Louisiana to give a solo recital and lecture in 2014. As the 2013 Chicago Oratorio Winner, his past performances included tenor soloist in oratorios, both DuBois’ Les sept paroles du Christ and Saint-Saëns’ Oratorio de Noël. Recent stage performances include: Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra & Chorus under the baton of conductor Kirk Muspratt and Willy Loman in Rizzer’s operatic adaptation of Death of a Salesman finale at the Chicago Cultural Center.
In 2011, Mr. Ketter was privileged to be musically coached and staged by American composer Carlisle Floyd in a concert celebrating his operatic works. A 2013 International Finalist in the Kurt Weill Foundation’s Lotte Lenya Competition, he reprised the role of "Che" in Andrew Lloyd Webber'sEvita with the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra; Mario Cavaradossi in scenes from Puccini’s Tosca with the Calumet City Chamber Ensemble; Radames’ Celeste Aida from Verdi’s Aida in a gala with Music by the Lake; a televised concert: "The Music of Bernard Hermann & Nino Rota"- this marked the Chicago-Premiere of Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights, singing the role of Edgar Linton; Gaylord Ravenal in Jerome Kern’s ShowBoat. In 2010, at Ravinia Mr. Ketter gave a benefit recital on behalf of the Misericordia Foundation; 2007, he performed at Walt Disney World in a series of concerts with Sherill Milnes’ VOICExperience. Recent television appearances include WGN; ABC’s 190 North; and ESPN as a frequent opening ceremony soloist for The UIC Flames and Northwestern Wildcats.

2015 American Prize Winner in Art Song; 2nd National Winner- HalLeonard Art Song Competition, 2nd National Winner HalLeonard Musical Theatre Competition. 2012: National Winner of the Friedrich Schorr American Prize in Opera; National Grand Prize Winner of the Shirley Rabb Winston Scholarships in Voice; American Prize Winner in Art Song; National Finalist in the Shreveport Opera Competition; Harold Haugh finalist-young artist award.

Pianist Pedro Yanez is a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago Staff. 

2015 Events

Wednesday, January 28th

Karl E. H. Seigfried


Between Venus and the Virgin:

Music and Myth in Wagner's "Tannhäuser"


A Lecture on Tannhäuser's Musical Subtleties and Mythic Sources

Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro Downtown, Chicago
733 W. Madison St.
7:00 PM  Reception
7:30 PM  Program
This guided tour through Wagner’s Tannhäuser views the opera through several lenses and from multiple perspectives. Methodology from musicology and mythography intersect with literary, historical, psychological and philosophical approaches.
Wagner himself used manifold methods when discussing his own work, and there are correspondences between his written theories and his musical output that often go unnoticed by today’s operagoers. However, Wagner was not the most transparent of poets, and his various philosophies don’t always smoothly sync with one another. This necessarily leads to conflicting concepts and mixed messages. At the very least, this presentation will hopefully convince you what the opera is not about: Catholic conceptions of sin and salvation. 
Wagner in Paris for the 1861 Tannhäuser performances
This lecture will feature a close reading of selected musical excerpts and passages from the libretto. There will be in-depth discussion of Wagner's own statements about the work, of his literary and mythological sources, and of his responses to reviews of the opera. We will trace the Tannhäuser legend and examine the correspondences between Wagner's poetry and that of the historical Minnesinger who inspired it. Connections will also be drawn to Wagner's other works, particularly Der Ring des Nibelungen.
For those especially interested in Norse mythology, we'll also discuss Freyja, Holda, Wotan, the Wild Hunt, Jacob Grimm's Teutonic Mythology and Wagner's stated "enthusiasm for the genuine heathen legends."

Monday, February 16

Amber Wagner and Gerald Finley

(Photo Credit: Larry Lapidus) (Photo Credit: Sim Canetty-Clarke)

A conversation with our Elizabeth and Wolfram

in the Lyric production of Wagner's Tannhäuser

7:00 PM  Reception
7:30 PM  Program
Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro Downtown, Chicago
733 W. Madison St.
We are delighted that both Wolfram (GERALD FINLEY) and Elisabeth (AMBER WAGNER) from the Tannhäuser cast will join us for an informal discussion about their work and about Tannhäuser in particular. Bill Shackelford will moderate the discussion. Please come prepared with questions for Bill to start with.

Wednesday, April 15th

Peter Bassett, Author and Dramaturg

Wagner’s Die Meistersinger and Lortzing’s Hans Sachs

Peter Bassett

Wagner’s Die Meistersinger and Lortzing’s Hans Sachs

Hotel Allegro
171 W. Randolph Street
7:00 PM  Reception
7:30 PM  Program
In recent decades, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg has been the subject of controversial claims and notorious flights of directorial fancy. So what is it really about? A single lecture could hardly do justice to that question, but Peter Bassett believes there is one frequently overlooked matter that throws light on Wagner’s intentions. It is the link between Die Meistersinger and dramatic works about Hans Sachs which were popular in 1845 when Wagner conceived his plan for ‘an opera in a lighter genre’ and wrote his lengthy prose sketch. Prominent amongst those works was Albert Lortzing’s comic opera Hans Sachs, first performed in 1840, the play on which it was based and a Singspiel called Hans Sachs in later life of 1831. It is a fascinating story.
PETER BASSETT is an Australian author and speaker with a particular interest in the works of Richard Wagner. He has published books on the RingTristan und IsoldeParsifal and Wagner & Verdi, and his four CD set Der Ring des Nibelungen – Explorations, was released by Decca in 2013. He was closely involved with productions of the Adelaide Rings of 1998 and 2004 (for the latter as Dramaturg, Artistic Administrator and lecturer), and Parsifal of 2001, and has led more than thirty international opera tours. In a former life he was an Australian diplomat and served in East and West Europe, Asia and the Pacific, and was Chief of Staff to two Governors of South Australia. He is Vice-President of the Richard Wagner Society in Queensland and an Honorary Member of the Finnish Wagner Society.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Wagner Birthday Dinner and Program

with Special Musical Guests
Joanna Porackova, mezzo-soprano
with Celeste Rue, piano
Michigan Shores Club
911 Michigan Avenue
Wilmette, IL
5:00 PM Reception
5:30 PM Program
6:15 PM DINNER (Please specify any dietary restrictions in advance)
AND perhaps: THE QUIZ & PRIZES!!!!

Program: We are pleased to have Joanna coming in from Boston for this program. She has done dramatic soprano roles and is now moving into the mezzo-soprano roles. We will hear some of both. Celeste will accompany her and also play a couple of piano works. We first knew Joanna through attending some of her performances and then had the chance to meet her in September, 2013 at a meeting of the Boston Wagner Society. You can find her on YouTube.

Joanna Porackova has been celebrated for her “soaring majesty” (Opera News) and “huge vocal and emotional range”in both the mezzo soprano and soprano dramatic repertoire. She was hailed by the Boston Globe 2010 as a “powerful soprano with a heartfelt, involving sense of the music’s inner drama (singing Brünnhilde), in Wagner’s “Immolation Scene”. In 2010 the Boston Musical Intelligencer praised her for “using her impressive instrument to full dramatic effect” for the mezzo soprano solo in Verdi’s REQUIEM with the Masterworks Chorale. Her ”warm smooth voice rang out over Wagner’s heavy orchestral texture… clearly at home in the role of Brünnhilde”, singing “Immolation Scene” with the Longwood Symphony directed by Jonathan Mcphee. The New York Sun, in reviews of DIE WALKÜRE in the 2008 Easter Salzburg Festival with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle singled her out as “foremost of the Valkyries…she was girlish and fantastic”. The New York Times praised her for singing with “great fervor and skill” as Magda Sorel in THE CONSUL directed by the composer himself Gian Carlo Menotti at the Washington National Opera, and for “transmitting the character’s obsessive passion and warmth” as Senta at Katharina Wagner’s directorial debut of DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER
In 2005 she sang Isolde in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE with the Grand Theatre de Tours, France, under the direction of Jean Yves Ossonce. The Neue Züricher Zeitung acclaimed her for her “technical mastery” in the complex title role in the world premiere of Rolf Liebermann’s MEDEA at the Stadtheater in Bern under the direction of Daniel Klajner. James Conlon later engaged her for the same role with the Paris Opera Bastille. She made her Alice Tully Hall debut (Lincoln Center) singing Anaide to Jerome Hines’ MOSE IN EGITTO the NY Times hailed her for “the most stageworthy..soprano blossomed.’
She has been engaged with the Aix en Provence, Salzburg, and Opera North (Canada) Festivals, Paris Opera Bastille, Grand Theatre de Tours, Klagenfurt, Würzburg, Bern, Stralsund, Hong Kong, Boston Lyric, Opera Boston, Seattle, Connecticut, Anchorage, Boston Bel Canto opera companies. She has performed the title roles of NORMA, TOSCA, AIDA, MEDEA, TURANDOT, DALILA, CARMEN, SALOME, ISOLDE,and LA WALLY as well as the Komponist, Amneris, Brünnhilde, Sieglinde, and Santuzza, to name a few. Her concert repertoire includes Wagner’s WESENDONCK LIEDER, Strauss’s VIER LETZTE LIEDER, the mezzo and soprano roles in the Verdi REQUIEM, and the Mahler 2nd Symphony, alto solo in Mozart REQUIEM, Bach B Minor Mass. In 2011 she sang the alto solo in Beethoven 9th with the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra, Boston,MA.
Her voice has been heard on Swiss National Radio, GOOD MORNING AMERICA, WGBH, BBC, WBUR, and ARTE and she appears on the DVD of DIE WALKÜRE with the Berliner Philharmoniker on the Bel Air Classiques label released in 2009 and as the sole musician on the BBC special “The Estate.”
She has performed recitals at the Paris Conservatory, Gerlesborgsskolan, Sweden, and the prestigious Beaulieu Abbey (UK), Boston and New York Wagner Society recital series. She has released a CD of Rachmaninoff and Medtner songs on the Americus Record label in their Russian Master Series with the acclaimed pianist Dag Achatz. She performed Kundry PARSIFAL in concert with Boston Wagner Society 2011, and Gerhilde in a concert of DIE WALKÜRE with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2012.

Tentative Program:

  • “Die Mainacht” Op. 43, No.2 Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
  • ”In the silent night” Op.4, No,3 by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
  • “Songs my mother taught me” `Op. 55, No.4 by Antonin Dvorak (1873-1904)
  • "Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix" Samson et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saens (1875-1921)
  • Piano Selection
PLUS: In honor of Wagner’s Birthday…
three hochdramatische Ladies of THE RING
  • "Weiche, Wotan!" (Erda) from Das Rheingold
  • "Wo in Bergen du dich birgst" (Fricka) from Die Walküre
  • Piano Selection
  • "War es so schmählich” (excerpt) (Brünnhilde) from Die Walküre
  • "Starke Scheite" (excerpt) (Brünnhilde) from Götterdämmerung

Thursday, October 8th

Francesca Zambello, Artistic Director of the Washington National Opera


Francesca Francesca

Hotel Allegro

171 W. Randolph Street

7:00 PM  Reception
7:30 PM  Program

Parking: Lowest price is just south on Wells Street, east side of street.


FRANCESCA ZAMBELLO, Artistic Director of the Washington National Opera. Francesca will present her production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle to be performed next May in Washington, D.C. She will include audio/visual segments of the production. We are delighted to have this acclaimed artist visit us for the first time.

Wednesday, November 18

A conversation with renowned Wagnerian bass-baritone
Tomasz Konieczny
currently appearing in the title role in Lyric Opera of Chicago's new production of Alban Berg's Wozzeck



Hotel Allegro
171 W. Randolph Street

7:00 PM  Reception
7:30 PM  Program
Parking: Lowest price is just south on Wells Street, east side of street.
With his sensational success as ALBERICH at the Vienna State Opera and now also as Jochanaan and Wotan/Wanderer Tomasz Konieczny has established himself at the forefront of outstanding dramatic Bass-Baritones of his generation. Besides ALBERICH and WOTAN in the Ring, Vienna has invited him to sing MANDRYKA, JACK RANCE, AMFORTAS, HOLLÄNDER, SCARPIA, CARDILLAC and PIZARRO. Among his future plans he has guest contracts to sing with the Salzburger Festspiele, Bayerischer Staatsoper München, Symphoniorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunk, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Opera Bastille.

Tomasz Konieczny was born in 1972 in Lodz/Poland, where he first studied acting at the Film, TV and Theatre Academy. He made his debut in a film directed by Oscar prize winning director Andrzej Wajda The Ring with the Eagle, following which he worked as actor / director in many TV Film and Theatre productions in Poland. It was at that time that he began his vocal studies at the Fryderyk Chopin Academy in Warsaw, after which he went to Dresden where he joined the class of Prof. Christian Elßner at the Hochschule für Musik. In 1998 he won the 33rd Dvorak International Vocal Competition in Carlsbad.

In 1997 he made his debut singing FIGARO in Le nozze di Figaro at the Poznan Opera in Poland, followed by engagements in places such as Leipzig, St. Gallen, Chemnitz and Mannheim. In 2002 he joined the ensemble of the National Theater Mannheim where he sang many roles included OREST, PIMEN, KING MARKE, AMFORTAS, WOTAN, PIZARRO, JOCHANAAN and the GRAN' INQUISITORE in Don Carlo. In 2004 Mannheim bestowed upon him the Arnold-Petersen-Award, a special prize for outstanding young talents.

2006 - 2014 Tomasz Konieczny was a member of the ensemble of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf/Duisburg where he could add to his repertoire some important leading roles like WOTAN, OSMIN, GOLAUD in Pelleas et Mélisande, KURWENAL, HOLLÄNDER, BARAK, BALSTRODE in Peter Grimes SELIM in Il Turco in Italia FALSTAFF and ESCAMILLIO.

He has been a regular guest at the Opera Festial "WAGNER IN BUDAPEST", Where he sang under the baton of Adam Fischer AMFORTAS in 2006, WOTAN in Die Walküre in 2007 as well as in 2009, WANDERER in 2010 and KURWENAL in 2010 and 2011. In 2008 he made his debut at the Semperoper Dresden where he sang a highly-acclaimed ALBERICH in both Das Rheingold and Siegfried under Peter Schneider. In the same year he appeared for the first time at the Teatro Real Madrid where he sang DR KOLENATY in Janacek's Case Macropoulos.

In 2010 he made his debut with a sensational success as ALBERICH at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

In 2011 he sang AMFORTAS at National Theater of Prague (Narodni Divadlo). It was a great personal sucsess of Konieczny. In 2011 he made also his debut as BITEROLF in Tannhäuser at Opéra National de Paris in 2012 as PIZARRO with NSO Washington and at the Bayerische Staatsoper München. The big sucsess was his debut at the Salzburger Festspiele (summer 2012) as STOLZIUS in Soldaten of Zimmermann. 2013 he sings two important CD - Productions of Ring des Nibelungen: as Wotan - the conductor is Marek Janowski (Pentatone Classics) and as Alberich - the conductor was Christian Thielemann (Deutsche Grammophon). 2014 he made his very saccesfully debut at the Carnegie Hall as JOCHANAAN in Salome and goes back as COMMENDATORE to Salzburger Festspiele. <

At the Vienna State Opera he still sings since 2009: JACK RANCE, ALBERICH and WOTAN, AMFORTAS, HOLLÄNDER, SCARPIA, MANDRYKA, JOCHANAAN. He performs for the Viennese public with consistent and requited love.

Tomasz Konieczny is also in great demand for concerts where the colour of his voice and his stage presence make for a special combination. Among his upcoming engagements are concerts with the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic in Prague, and with the BBC London. His repertoire includes Bach's St. Matthew's Passion, the Weihnachtsoratorium, Handel's Messiah and Mendessohn´s Elijah, Mozart's, Verdi's and Dvorak's Requiem, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Dvorak's Stabat Mater, Penderecki's Kosmogonia, Lukaspassion, Seven Gates of Jerusalem and the Messa da Requiem by Maciejewski.

Sunday, November 29

26th Annual Holiday Luncheon
& Silent Auction

with Special Musical Guests
David Cangelosi, Tenor
Eric Weimer, Piano

Michigan Shores Club
911 Michigan Avenue
Wilmette, IL

12:00 PM Silent Auction
(cash or check only)
1:00 PM Luncheon and Program
Dinner and Recital: $65.00

With over 30 years in professional show-business, David Cangelosi is known industry wide as one of its most versatile performers. The internationally acclaimed opera singer is also well versed in the areas of musical-theater, night club/cabaret, voice-overs, and his continuing career in the classical vocal arts as a recitalist, master-class instructor, and symphonic guest artist.

In addition; as the Artistic Director of the Vann Vocal Institute in Montgomery, Alabama, he enjoys a consultancy with the Montgomery Symphony, books their celebrity recital series, and is working to develop the Montgomery Music Festival along with his duties as the Institute’s director. Each year he brings the nation’s finest coaches, teachers, administrators, and stage directors to Montgomery for extended developmental work with young aspiring vocalists in the South.

His very active on-stage career continues with performances and associations with the leading opera houses and symphony orchestras of the world including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington Opera, San Francisco Opera, Paris Opera, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Cincinnati Symphony, and others. For a more in-depth look, and for up-to-date information and postings, you are most heartily invited to browse the new DavidCangelosi.com.

Eric Weimer has established himself as one of the pre-eminent coach/Assistant Conductors in the international opera world. Through his work at some of the world's leading companies'in particular, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Bayreuth Festival, but also the San Francisco Opera, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Cleveland Orchestra'he has prepared some 150 productions, collaborating with most of the world's greatest opera maestri: James Levine, Sir Andrew Davis, Bruno Bartoletti, Donald Runnicles, Zubin Mehta, Daniel Barenboim, Franz Welser-Moest, Antonio Pappano, James Conlon, Christoph Eschenbach, Christian Thielemann, and Georg Solti. In this work, he has coached and worked closely with virtually all the major singers active on the international opera stage. While famous as a German specialist'he has prepared no less than twelve complete cycles of Wagners's Der Ring des Nibelungen'he is known also for the breadth of his experience with other repertoires, particularly the Baroque and the Italian. A fluent speaker of German and Italian, he has prepared most of the German and Italian repertoire that Lyric Opera of Chicago has presented in the past 24 years.

A former musicologist, Eric Weimer holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and is the author of Opera seria and the Evolution of Classical Style'he is also in great demand as a coach of young singers. He joined the music staff of the Ryan Opera Center (training wing of Lyric Opera of Chicago) in 1992.