Cosmic connections, music/man/myth, nine T&I's, Mahler
I remember my first Wagner, I was 22 and it was on the first night upon arriving in Sydney, Australia. After checking into the hostel, I went immediately to the iconic opera house to see what was on offer, it was Tannhäuser. The only seats available were the expensive front rows where you can observe the beads of sweat dripping our of the pores of the singers, I told the kind lady that I would just get a standing room ticket. She looked at me and replied in a concerned tone, "you do know that this is a Wagner right? I really don't think you want to stand though it." I told her that I was just a student backpacker with a tight budget and reaffirmed my decision. She took pity on me and gave me a seat in the box at a price slightly above standing room, then wished me a great time in Australia.
I promptly fainted for the first time during an opera
I remember hating almost everything about the production: from the outlandish costumes, to the non-sensical intellectual reading of the piece, I simply did not understand it. But I do remember it was the very first time that I cried in an opera. I was moved by his music, and the words. I was bawling my eyes out and we were not even halfway through Act 2. The sinewy old lady sitting next to me was so impressed by my burst of emotions that she took me on a tour of the opera house during the intermission.
JOEL IVANY (Artistic director, Against the Grain Theatre and frequent CharPo contributor)
GAËTAN L. CHARLEBOIS (Publisher, The Charlebois Post)
I came to Wagner late. I wanted to see a production at the newly refurbished Covent Garden and the only one they were showing was Tristan und Isolde. I went to Sam's, asked the young man who worked there (who knew classical music...those vendors existed then) and he pointed me to the Birgit Nilsson/Wolfgang Windgassen T&I (still the best, and I've listened to nine others). I hated it, hated it, hated it... Then I loved it. Within five months - before I even got to London - I owned every Wagner opera, even the bad ones (Rienzi) and early ones (Feen) and in most cases several versions (the nine T&Is, four Rings, three Meistersingers, two Tannhäusers...). For two years I listened to virtually nothing else. I don't argue about Wagner. (My operaphile uncle, for instance, keeps telling me he is saving Wagner for "my old age" - he's heading towards 80...). I feel if you get hung up on the shithead of a man which is Wagner, you are not getting the music which is also Wagner.
ARDEN RYSHPAN (Executive director, Canadian Actors' Equity Association)
My Wagner? I don’t listen to Wagner… Now, if you want to talk to me about Mahler, that’s a different story.