Thanks to Iain Scott for the following on long time member Father M. Owen Lee:
The funeral for Father Owen Lee will take place on this Saturday, 10th August 2019 at 10 a.m. at St Basil’s Church, Bay Street at St Joseph. All members are encouraged to attend.
Father Lee was a founding member of our Society, a good friend of Dorothy Graziani and Bill Blissett, and it was he who presented the lecture at our inaugural meeting on 27th February, 1976. He chose as his topic “Die Meistersinger” and reprised this lecture for us in 1985. He gave another six lectures for us – on “Tristan und Isolde” and “Tannhauser” in 1977, “Parsifal” in 1979, “Thoughts on the Ring” in 1980, “Lohengrin” in 1983 and “Wagner and the Greeks” in 1984.
He was also invited to speak by several of our sister Wagner Societies in the USA – including the Wagner Society of Southern California, the Los Angeles Wagner Society, the New York Wagner Society, and the Wagner Society of America in Chicago – but he was perhaps most admired and celebrated by the Wagner Society of Washington DC, which awarded him both its “Wagner Medallion” and its “Siegfried Sword.”
His four short books on Wagner have become essential reading for all Wagnerians. His “Wagner, the terrible man and his truthful art” is perhaps the most read introduction to the paradoxes of Wagner’s genius. His book on Wagner’s Ring Cycle “Turning the sky around” continues to be the best-selling introduction to that monumental work, according to Amazon.com and his other two Wagner books, on “Wagner and the Greeks – Athena sings” and on “Die Meistersinger – the wonder of art” are full of similarly succinct and masterly insights.
His thoughts on “Parsifal” were further elaborated in his book on the meaning of Quests (“The olive-tree bed”) which also provided an inspiring Jungian interpretation of the quests of Homer’s Odysseus, Goethe’s Faust, and Virgil’s Aeneas.
His insights into the wider operatic repertoire are contained in five other music books, two of which are particularly recommendable. Father Lee’s compendium of some of his radio scripts “First intermissions – twenty one great operas explained, explored and brought to life from the Met” and his follow-up compendium containing his program notes (for a further 23 operas for a variety of performing companies) “A season of opera – from Orpheus to Ariadne” have greatly expanded our knowledge of the art form.
In the citation for one of his three honorary degrees (Sacred Letters from St Michael’s College, the University of Toronto) it was said that he was “perhaps the most famous faculty member at this University” beloved by an estimated eight million listeners to the Metropolitan radio broadcasts over 23 seasons. He received the University’s “outstanding teacher award” and a scholarship was endowed in his name at the Faculty of Music.