My 6 month old son Archie has had a few rough nights of late. Teeth, wind, nappy rash – just you name it and it’s been in our house more than I certainly care for. Which has made this Hamburg project both a blessing and a curse all at the same time. When I have to get ready and go I feel an obligatory dose of mumma-guilt for leaving my husband and son in a time of tears. Though as I crank up the music in the car and drive up the freeway towards QPAC I feel nostalgically free.

Emerging from the New Mum Fog

As I sat down for the second of the Conversation series at the Lyrebird Restaurant I learnt yet another new- mummy state that I had yet to really grasp. Exhausted from an almost pathological lack of sleep I found myself rambling uncontrollably to the nearest adult. Unused to conversing with most anyone other than my baby seemed to have rendered me socially inept.

A ridiculous sense of awkward self-awareness and exhaustion were probably not the best mental frames through which to listen to a fairly academic discussion of Wagner and Das Rheingold. And although while one gentleman (sitting at the front, no less) did actually fall asleep, I’m proud to say that despite a recurrent eye twitch, I did not.

Connecting to the Narrative of an Unfamiliar Art

My intellectual mind was fascinated by the discussion between Dramaturg Peter Bassett and Dr Stephan Emmerson, a Senior Lecturer in Music Literature. The parallels drawn between Das Rheingold and the socio-political times in which it was created are just the kind of topics that have always made the little people in my mind start turning the cogs.

The narrative interested me – the stuff of myth and legend. The connection to human experience excited me – power, love, greed. The historical context in which Wagner helped shape the way opera, theatre and subsequently cinema exists today fascinated me (he was apparently the first to close the doors, down the lights and thereby ‘ask’ the audience to actually concentrate on the art).

As Peter Bassett jumped onto the piano and drew our attention to some of the ‘light motifs’ Wagner wrote into his music the fogginess started to lift. I reminisced about teaching Melodrama to Year 9 Drama students. I thought about the simplicity of association – how a baby can learn that one thing is connected to something else, and in just the same way a classic composer can use a musical phrase to denote place, character, time.

Bassett’s excitement at the piano excited me in turn and I left highly anticipating joining the rest of the audience at Das Rheingold in a week and a half’s time.

There really is so much more that I could process and add – but as I type to a soundtrack of baby cries, accompanied by a husband’s persistent attempts to soothe an upset little boy, it is that part of life that I must think most of right now!

Das Rheingold: A Conversation Heard with Beginners Ears

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