As of late, the opera world has been buzzing about the Met’s revival of the Ring this month and next. It is a true masterpiece that was created by none other than Richard Wagner. It is so great, that I actually have to thank Wagner and the Ring, because both of them turned me on to opera!
Photo: Six-year-old me with my Brünnhilde hat and Ring shirt…and cowboy boots
Opera has always been a part of my life. My mother, Susan Spector, is the second oboist of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, and my father is a huge opera fan. Opera and classical music was and is always playing in my house, but I never thought I would get into it. I went to one dress rehearsal when I was four years old of Hänsel und Gretel in 2001, but I could not stay through the whole thing. At this point, I was focused on my career of becoming a dolphin-trainer at Sea World, not an opera singer.
This is how it began:
It was the Summer of 2003, I was five years old. My father was working downstairs so I just decided to wander down to his office. When I walked in the office I heard a very loud tenor forging a sword. He had on live radio broadcast of Siegfried from the Bayreuth Festival (Wagner’s own festival). I remember saying, “Daddy, what’s that?”
Not half an hour later, I was sitting upstairs with my parents watching the Metropolitan Opera DVD of the Otto Schenk production of Siegfried. I was hooked, and I could not just stop at Siegfried. Each night after that, my family and I watched the entire Ring, act by act. It was fascinating! I remember thinking that Hagen was the most evil villain that I had seen, beating out all of the evil villains in Disney Movies and the Powerpuff Girls. First Grade started and I remember not being able to stop thinking about the Ring. I would write journal entries about it. I even asked my teacher how to spell “Die Walküre“…she was helpless/speechless.
Photo: Six-year-old me dressed as Wotan
April of 2004 came bearing the Ring season, and I was going! I even got to skip a few days of school (Those were the only days I missed). My first Ring opera was Die Walküre. My mother played in the pit, and I attended it with my father and my teddy bear. I remember sitting down and people staring and whispering, “What is a six-year-old doing here?”. I loved it. My parents had organized that I could get a ride home with one of the other orchestra musicians if I was tired or bored. That did not happen. My dad said, “Do you want to stay?” and I responded saying, “I want to see Brünnhilde!”.
I could not stop smiling seeing Brünnhilde walk out on to the stage and launch her “Hojotoho”s. After seeing the DVD, she was my idol. I had even memorized her staging and lines. Jane Eaglen, who was singing Brünnhilde in 2004, walked off a different way in Act II than Hildegard Behrens did in the DVD. I whispered to my Dad that she walked off the wrong way and that “the words were wrong”. His jaw dropped to the floor.
Next was Götterdämmerung. Yes, that Götterdämmerung, the one that is six hours long. I sat through it and loved it. At one of the intermissions, I went back to the Met Cafeteria where I got to meet Alan Held who was singing Gunther. He and my mother were friends in college. He came dressed in the full Gunther costume and all. It was like meeting the Disney Princesses, but better.
Photo: Me and Alan Held backstage at the dress rehearsal of Götterdämmerung
The next day was Das Rheingold. My father and I encountered an elderly woman when we were in the audience. She tapped my dad on the shoulder and said, “Don’t you realize that this is one two and a half hour long act! How can you bring this child here?”. He sent back a great retort, “Well, she sat through six hours of Götterdämmerung yesterday so I’m sure she can handle this”. The woman sat back without saying a peep. I loved Das Rheingold. I did fall asleep for a part of it, but woke up for Donner and the Rainbow Bridge.
The last was Siegfried: The opera that had started it all. I remember actually seeing Siegfried tame the billows and bang on the sword. That part I had heard on the radio had finally come alive!
So now, here I am! I have been going to the opera ever since, and have still been fascinated by everything that I have seen. I believe my next opera was Otello, and that I was scared of seeing Desdemona choked. My dad could not understand this considering I had just seen multiple stabbings, blood, and mythical horror. The Ring has made me who I am today, an Opera Geek! Thank you to my family, Richard Wagner, and the Ring.
Photo: Me and THE RING