In one week I have discovered that yes, I DO love opera, but only, it seems, when it’s Wagner’s Das Ring Des Nibelungen. Funny that. I am a bit surrounded by opera people. My mother loves it, and my daughter too. It kind of skipped a generation with me, but I would go along once a year with the two of them, not to be left out. I also have a friend who writes opera reviews for a paper here in Melbourne. I have another friend who I went to primary school with who sang for years in Germany, has sung each of the Ring operas, and now lives in London and is an agent to musicians and performers. The Singer and I have had a flurry of facebook messages going back and forth over the last day or so, as he has delighted in my new-found conversion to The Ring.
My critic friend has taken me to a couple of operas, and offered me more and I’ve declined, because (shhh) I didn’t really like it. I’ve never been a live theatre person, or musical person. I fell asleep in Carmen once; also at Camelot, even though my friend was Guinevere and we’d heard the stories about Richard Harris flapping his privates at her while from the wings – both years ago. I prefer books and movies, and I always have. I like the ballet but only in moderation and while I liked Madam Butterfly and Swan Lake recently, and Eugene Onegin a couple of years ago, it’s Not Really My Thing. My time is precious, I am running a business AND trying to be a novelist at the same time. I also have children, wider family, blah de blah, and on it goes. So NRMT. Until now.
When Saturday a week ago The Critic was here for dinner, he asked me if I would be interested in seeing Das Rheingold with him on the Monday night, two days later.
YES, I said. I WOULD. (The Ring had been on my list of things to do since 2013 when my mother went here in Melbourne and said I HAD to see it one day. But then she’s an Opera Person, I thought. She would say that.) But I am about experience, and epic experience whenever possible. I admit, until I saw Das Rheingold, in my mind the attraction was the experience of having seen The Ring Cycle – and the endurance involved, to know what it was like to sit there – not what I might actually feel or love or take in while present. Oh, how misguided that was.
So I went on Monday, and sat with dropped jaw for the entire two and a half hours. We went to the after-party and that was amazing, being on the inside (writers always feel on the outside of things; it’s the position to best observe). I saw the sparkly frocks; the fabulous women of opera with their oversized vibrant spectacle frames and dramatic flowing fabrics. The men in dinner suits. On the Wednesday night the same thing. It was Die Walküre and I was in love. Irrevocably and completely fallen. It didn’t matter that technical difficulties extended not one but both intervals. It didn’t matter that a woman from Kooyong was sitting in The Critic’s seat when we finally got back inside after the dinner break. That she’d found his forgotten tickets on the platform at the station and whizzed herself in, prepared with a story of how she came to be seated there. It was a moment of high emotion inserted into an evening of already mega-drama.
Siegfried was Friday night, and again, it was epic. The blown-up image of the dragon putting on his warpaint, nude, was my favourite part, as was the appearance of Brünnhilde – magnificent character played by a magnificent woman. I am besotted. I wasn’t prepared for the sight of seeing ten women on stage, the Valkyries, Brünnhilde helping Sieglinde: two strong women, in a loving sisterly embrace, surrounded by strong women, with no one scheming, plotting, jealous, aggrieved. How refreshing it was, and so outside of the stereotypical way women are often represented. How marvellous.
This afternoon, we head in for a 4pm start, for Götterdämmerung, which The Critic has described as an earthquake. I am dressing accordingly. Vivid red dress, pink tights, yellow bag, purple nails and lips. Look out. I’ve ordered our boxed dinners and tonight, I also complete my tetraptych of souvenirs:
- first night was the program
- the CD box of recordings in Vienna in 1958, 1962, 1963 & 1964. It is sublime.
- coffee mug saying What Would Life Be, Without a Little Wagner?
- And tonight, it’s the viking hat. Yes, I’m getting it and probably wearing it home in the car.
My friend in London has reblogged a blog post I wrote a little while back on this website, about rejection. He thinks it of interest to the singers and musicians he works with, and I can see how building resilience in the face of rejection, and developing persistence, patience and endurance, are essential to not just artists everywhere, but anybody who is chasing a passion or dream. Life is what you make it, and people don’t hand you things. Yes, you can build a team of supporters and champions, and that’s important. Things can’t happen in isolation. But it is down to you to make it all happen and that can take a lot of effort, heartbreak and – most importantly – time.