Oh, hey there.
I suppose my addiction is really to music in general and I am admittedly guilty of binge listening, currently bingeing on Richard Wagner and have been for close to a year. I used to drive my family nuts with Gustav Mahler, or Jean Sibelius, and now it’s Wagner. What’s worse, being an amateur musicologist, I realize that many of the great composers suffered from the very same addiction as mine to this brilliant operatic musician and, though some lived and died Wagnerians, many of them recanted and some even grew to despise their ill-fated fetish.
At this point, I can hear you’re thinking. “Ooh, opera! Yuch!!” and I completely understand. I was the same way. Being a classically trained trumpet player, I appreciated much of operatic music and had even worked as an orchestral trumpeter in a couple of opera companies, but I just had a hard time acquiring a taste for the vocal part of opera. You know what I mean. “The fat lady singing…” and all that stuff. Well, I’m here to tell you opera is like anything else once you acquire a taste for it, that it is addictive. It has strong appeal to the emotional side of humans, especially if you are listening to an opera by a master composer. Of course, Puccini doesn’t count. His operas are like exquisite coffee, oozing with unbelievable body and aroma, dripping with luscious sounds from the orchestra pit. It’s like pop-opera, really tasty drama. Puccini’s operas are easy to love from the get go, and I knew that if I was going to really give opera a try, I had to go elsewhere.
Then I heard that the Minnesota Opera was doing Wagner’s Das Rheingold in the 2016-17 season, and I knew I needed to try opera live, and this time not as an orchestra member (like I can make that cut anyway nowadays) but as a patron. So in January, 2016 I commenced preparations for the fall event, I put myself on a regimen of Wagner binge listening and I’ve hardly been the same since. The following is a partial list of operas on my diet: Tristan and Isolde, all four of the Nibelung operas, Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdamerung with a few rounds of Verdi’s Aida, Falstaff, and, of course some dessert, Puccini’s Tosca. Keep in mind, binge listening is more than your normal “run through one time then you’re done” type thing. It’s run through and then start it over again and again, etc. I’m certain that in the last eight months I have listened to the complete four-opera Ring of the Nibelung at least 10 to 15 times, as well as all the others. Additionally, I have witnessed live performances of Dvorak’s Rusalka, Puccini’s Tosca, Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, and of course, the one that set it all in motion, Das Rheingold.
So, what’s my point? If you are into classical music but haven’t quite made the leap of faith into opera, you may be missing out on a very exciting adventure in musical never never land. Don’t be alarmed at my overboardness. You do not have to be a binge listener to partake of the joys and beautiful sounds of musical drama. You can even try the dessert first. Puccini is a great introduction, then dive right into the Wagner world. You may not like it after trying it. Then again, you just may. No harm in trying.
Bye for now.
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