I’m sure there was a time in my life when I read Wagner and said “wag-ner” with a good ole Aussie twang. Now I know it’s ‘Vaaarg-ner”. I think I even tend to over-emphasise the ‘ahhh’ sound… I’m not sure where that kind of pronunciation sits on the scale of ‘Knows Vahgner’ to ‘Doesn’t know Wagner’.

Leaving my grumpy, teething, six month old baby at home with my husband for the second night in a row felt a little cruel. Though I must say that getting all dressed up, and spending time at QPAC with my best friend (not to mention a few cheeky glasses of wine before the show) was very refreshing!

Finding time for myself outside of motherhood is something I am still struggling with. Often it seems easier to stay home, within the comforts of all that is familiar, rather than to go out of my way to organise some time ‘for myself’. Elements of the “real world”, like finding out about the black tie dress code little more than a day before an event, now feel even more overwhelming.

Twenty-four hours is not a lot of time for a new Mum to find something suitable to wear (particularly amongst a wardrobe of beautiful, but now far-too-small dresses), for her to relearn how to apply mascara and practice walking in heels. And when that 24 hours contains the regular 18-20ish hours of active baby-care, attending the Mahler rehearsal and just a little bit of sleep, well, you get the picture!

When we arrived however, seeing the tuxedos, bow-ties, beautiful dresses and one amazing, green velvet dinner jacket made it all worthwhile.

Oh, and the mermaids!? Yes! They are the reason for my post.

I’m a bit of a sucker for ancient stories with gods, magical spells and mythical creatures. Which is why I was looking forward to last night’s performance of Das Rheingold by the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hamburg State Opera.

As much as it was emphasised during the Conversations series that a concert version of this opera was perhaps even more exciting (quote, “less distracting” unquote) than a full production, I do wish I could have seen the complete ‘show’. I guess what lovers of the music might see as distractions I, as a lover of theatre, see as the real culmination of the artist’s intent.

After having listening to the orchestra play Mahler’s Resurrection the night before, the singers, their characters and the universal narrative of love and greed, shed another light on this realm of the ‘classical’ that I am in the midst of exploring. The performers’ characterisations, both the individuality and collective melding of their voices, the stances, movements, facial expressions, this was more of what I am used to when reading a performance.

As far as the concert version goes, it was interesting to me that the singers appeared to be both themselves, and their characters. That while watching them sing I could imagine them in full costume, amongst a cartoonish set. Though between their parts, I thought they appeared as themselves, outside of their characterisation.

The lack of constant characterisation had me watching the performance on a more meta-cognitive level, as I was constantly reminded of the ‘creation’ of it, the fiction, reminded that it is all really just pretending. Not that I think the staging of an opera about mermaids and giants would be realistic, I just know that I would get a little more lost in the story with fewer ‘real-life’ distractions and more constant creation of the fiction.

That said, I did enjoy it immensely. And while listening to the music, following the story and the characters that were presented on the stage last night, my mind was simultaneously filling in the theatrical blanks with colour, costume, and fairytale-esque lands.

I was glad for having attended the Conversation about Wagner and Das Rheingold a few weeks ago. To have some idea of the storyline, the characters, and even just a fleeting understanding of some musical conventions like the use of ‘light motif’ certainly increased what I was able to take away from the performance.

That and the hilarious subtitles.

Across the language barrier, I wonder if when the audience was giggling at some slightly absurd translation, if the line actually carried the same giggle-factor in German, or if performers themselves were left wondering exactly what was on the screen above them while performing to this predominately English-speaking audience.

Last night was so much more than just the performance of an opera. It was, from the moment we arrived amongst the other formally-clad guests, a fascinating insight into a creative, social and cultural world that I haven’t taken part in before.

Home now in my teething rusk-covered tracksuit pants, with the whoosh-whoosh of my son’s white noise creating the soundtrack to my thoughts, the fine suits, delicious wine and high notes of Das Rheingold feel a million miles away.

But they’re not. They’re just there. In South Brisbane. At the Cultural Centre… For when I next decide I’d like a bit more ‘me’ time.

On a Scale of Wagner to Vaaargner: A Night at the Opera

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