International Association of Wagner Societies

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Richard Wagner (portrait by Cäsar Willich), c. 1862

The International Association of Wagner Societies (Der Richard-Wagner-Verband International e.V., also known as "Der RWVI") is an affiliation of Wagner societies (Richard Wagner-Verband) that promotes interest and research into the works of Richard Wagner, raises funds for scholarships for young music students, singers, and instrumentalists, and supports the annual Bayreuth Festival. It also sponsors symposia, holds singing competitions for Wagnerian voices, and issues awards for stage direction and stagings of Wagner's operas, the association is a nonprofit organization.


The first Richard Wagner society was launched in Mannheim, Germany in 1871, one year after the premiere of the German composer's opera Die Walküre ("The Valkyrie") in Munich. The brainchild of Wagner's longtime friend, the music publisher Emil Heckel, the first society was a simple, locally conceived venue for celebrating Wagner's music. In the wake of Wagner's difficulties in securing interest in the public subscription for his future Bayreuth Festival, Heckel suggested to the composer that he sponsor additional societies to help secure support. Wagner embraced the idea enthusiastically, and by 1872, societies had been established in Vienna, Berlin, Leipzig and London (the latter founded by Edward Dannreuther (1844-1905), the author of Richard Wagner: His Tendencies and Theories published in 1873).

Wagner's dream, as described in a letter written in 1882, was that his Bayreuth Festival would be free for everyone to attend, however this was never possible because of the extremely high costs to organize and produce it. Nonetheless, based on Wagner's desires, societies refocused their efforts and began making it possible for promising talented musicians to attend. Public interest in supporting subscriptions to fund scholarships was initially tepid, but from 1919 forward, the number of societies increased steadily.

The International Association of Wagner Societies was founded in 1991 in Lyon. Today, more than 26,000 members in 147 societies belong to the International Association of Wagner Societies around the globe, the number of groups under the organization's auspices has expanded considerably in the last fifty years. Wagner societies can be found in all parts of the world, including Venice, Great Britain, Shanghai, Tokyo, Lisbon, Melbourne, Adelaide, Ankara, New York City, Toronto, Cape Town, Bangkok, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.

The societies are very diverse and offer a wide range of Wagner-related activities, including concerts, lectures, and publishing, the main organization holds a symposium called "Wagner Days in Venice" (Giornate Wagneriane a Venezia) in Italy each autumn.

Chairs and presidents[edit]

  • Horst Eggers
  • Nicolaus Richter
  • Prof. Alessandra Althoff-Pugliese
  • Prof. Dr. Hans-Michael Schneider
  • Jacques Bouffier
  • Prof. Dr. Günter Cisek
  • Georg Riesner
  • Andrea Buchanan
  • Rainer Fineske
  • Selma Gudmundsdottir
  • Gisbert Lehmhaus
  • Karl Russwurm
  • Dipl.-Ing. Heinz Weyringer
  • Christian Ducor
  • Dr. Matthias Lachenmann

Richard Wagner International Congress[edit]

Every year members of the local Wagner Societies gather for the Richard Wagner International Congress, to share experiences and to plan for the future in sessions, the congress takes place in a different city each year:

Congresses have also taken place in Frankfurt am Main, Bordeaux, Trier, and Budapest.

See also[edit]

Official website[edit]