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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Mena

Aaaaargh!! Wagner!

Updated: Mar 16

Why, why, why are you so difficult and so stunning at the same time?!?! Never, in a million years, did I think I would ever be singing any of Richard Wagner's music. Didn't really grow up listening to Wagner, even though my father was a big fan. He had studied the stories of the Ring Cycle as a child, and considered a production of Die Walküre he saw at the Wiener Staatsoper one of the highlights of his life. On a summer visit to my parents' home in Spain, I remember a great chat I had with my dad about opera, when he excitedly pulled a book on Wagnerian operas from his library and gifted it to me. That meant a lot, knowing how precious his books were to him. And I remember thinking to myself, this is wonderful, but I'll never sing Wagner. Famous last thoughts......

Fast forward to senior year of undergrad at San José State University, when I first heard the Wesendonck Lieder. I thought it one of the most sublime cycles I'd ever heard and decided to take it on. As soon as I entered grad school at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, I began studying it diligently. Little did I know that working on this cycle would feel like tackling a Wagnerian beast. There were days when I would be victorious, and days when the beast would look me in the eye and make me quiver in my heels. And the worst part was that I wasn't sure who was going to win this battle in the end. Yet, on the day of my graduate recital, I was ready to give it my all and it felt glorious to perform it. Thanks to the tutelage, love, and support of both my voice teacher, Sylvia Anderson, and my wonderful coach, Steven Bailey, I can say that on that evening the beast and I became friends. Wish my dad could've been there to see and hear it.

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