I don't mind going to the opera alone. Quite often, when I take people with me who don't share my love of it, I find myself getting nervous or apologising for less than amazing performances. This year, I saw the British premiere of Weinberg's The Portrait alone. I was glad no one had come with me- from the moment it started, I knew that nobody I knew would have enjoyed it, and I would have been sitting there worrying about how lost and bored they felt, rather than becoming immersed in the music and the drama myself. The last year has been quite dominated by Wagner, and I've dragged my parents along to a few performances, but I've come to realise that any future performances of Der Ring des Nibelungen might best be enjoyed solo.
Wagner isn't everybody's cup of tea. I don't think that, as a rule, his works are great for opera beginners. Italian opera was the background music to my childhood, and it took me some time to get used to the different sounds and structures of his operas. Once I did, I fell in love and have had some seriously sublime experiences listening to and watching Wagner operas, but I think I might be done exposing others to him. On my father's birthday I took him to Opera North's concert performance of Das Rheingold. He likes listening to Wagner, but the long interval-free performance in the crowded, almost tropical Leeds Town Hall nearly resulted in him passing out, and I sat there feeling terribly guilty.
Having someone beside you that you've dragged along and feel responsible for does alter your experience of the opera, and sometimes it's better just to admit that not everyone finds a five-hour performance in high German particularly easy going. From now on, I think I'll go alone and lose myself in the music without having to worry about anybody else. I don't need anyone sighing, yawning or sleeping through one of my favourite pieces from any opera ever- Wotan's Farewell from Die Walkure.