I drove to the first of my Hamburg experiences feeling quite anxious. I still hadn’t engaged with much outside of my new role as a mum, and the realm of the more classical arts was not one that ever felt particularly connected to. My mind was still filled with more than a few ideas about what this whole experience would be like.

I found myself making a mental ‘big deal’ out of the fact that I put on makeup that day, that I had considered wearing heels (though still ended up in a very comfortable pair of ballet flats), and that my rattly and somewhat stinky old car perhaps wasn’t suitable transport to and from any of the Hamburg events…

I took my seat amongst the rest of the audience of Conversations #1 with “renowned Wagnerian soprano” Lisa Gasteen (happy not to be the youngest, as I sat across from a pair of stylish young ladies who I decided must be diligent students from the QLD Conservatorium of Music) and busied myself with the newspaper sized Hamburg flyer.

As the conversation began I must admit I felt a little overwhelmed. My tired mumma mind was easily lost in the assumed knowledge that Wagner and Verdi were such and such composers of this and that and those operas about, you know, those characters that did that thing.

I had taken a little notepad, in which my first notes most accurately sum up my thoughts for at least the first ten minutes of the interview.

“Leo Schofield → awesome socks… pink, grey… cravat 🙂 ”

However, as the conversation continued I connected with the topics of discussion, and quickly began to soak up stories of Lisa Gasteen as a young soprano fighting her way onto the stages of Europe’s finest opera houses. Learning as I listened (context, context, context!), I gleaned a little bit about specific operas, and a lot about the commitment, determination, and sheer love of art that is required to perform it at an elite level. Particularly for Australians making their way from the small pond that is opera down under, to the Pacific sized ocean that are the opera houses of Europe.

While I do wish that I had the ‘insider’ knowledge to have shared story-specific giggles with the speakers and what seemed like the vast majority of the audience (though I’m sure there MUST have been a few of us politely following the giggle-lead of those who actually understood the jokes), I did come away wanting to watch more opera.

That is, more than the few seconds I might have seen of a grainy, filmed performance being aired on daytime SBS before I continued flicking channels and settle on a re-run of some inane American sitcom (or rather now “The Adventures of Piggley Winks”).

Connecting Lisa’s experiences, her character and her story to my own life, I reflected on the collections of short years I’ve spent in many and varied jobs. I envied her dedication, her determination and her iron-will commitment to success in a field that she loved, but one that was going to make her battle for recognition, opportunity and reward.

It was only the first of my Hamburg experiences, but I could already see how that single hour spent listening to the reflections, the ideas and the excitement of Lisa Gasteen and Leo Schofield was going to change the way I will now experience opera.

That statement alone, “will now experience opera“, takes me out of the Cremorne (my theatre of comfort) and into more formal and unfamiliar Conservatorium Theatre.

Well, that’s just what I need! More shows to see on my very generous, stay-at-home mum, baby dribble and sloppy kisses salary… 

Opera Socks: The First of the Hamburg Conversations Series

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