Wagner composed Rienzi during his ‘Paris’ period, an unhappy time when he was trying to make his mark by writing music with popular appeal. He subsequently disowned it, and Rienzi is rarely performed these days and never at Bayreuth, but it has some excellent and memorable ‘tunes’, and a splendid climax when the Roman Capitol building collapses around the hero.
It was a glorious day, and we took advantage of the weather to go to Henley and enjoy a cream tea overlooking the river. We knew that the opera was going to be long, and one of my girlfriend’s flatmates cooked a fish pie to be eaten before the performance in order to keep us going.
The whole Rienzi experience was most entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable, but at midnight I was sick as dog. I always wondered afterwards which of the sensory excesses it was that was responsible – the cream tea, the fish pie or Wagner. I suspect the fish pie although many would blame Wagner, and that is a pity, because in Rienzi, Wagner succeeded in creating real entertainment.