I went to Tannhäuser by myself; I couldn't talk anyone into going. It turned out I was one of an audience of fourteen people -- five men and nine women. Not a young person in sight.

There's a lot of Wagner I just plain don't get, but no matter how many times I hear that Overture, it still gives me gooseflesh. A long wait to Abendstern, the opera's one sure hit tune. (When I was in high school I memorized the words of that aria, which took some doing since I hadn't started studying German yet.) The Venusberg looked like scrubland, but the Hall of the Wartburg was magnificent. James Levine conducted from his wheelchair, so obviously happy to be there but not looking well at all. Johan Botha has a beautiful voice, so flexible and distinctive. He sounds even better when you close your eyes. The three leads collectively could stand to lose 400 pounds.

Yes and no.