RP: Wagner audiences are special, I think. Its their music but in a positive way; its a passion. Everyone feels expended musically and physically after five hours or whatever of a Wagner performance. So people tend to, how shall I put it? well, freak out at the end. After Tristan in Berlin recently, the people didnt want to go home they wanted to express their feelings, to shout and cry with emotion and in appreciation. People go to the opera house after their office lives and after the stresses of the day, and the opera makes them feel good it is a release for them. That is why it is an honor to sing for them. And I am very excited to be singing my first Wotan at La Scala it will also be my first time singing in Milan. There is so much history on that stage. Its an honor to be part of that, too.
Q: Was there a special musical atmosphere where you grew up, in Dresden, behind the Iron Curtain?
RP: I grew up singing in Kreuzchor, the boys choir there, from the age of 8. So music was always important to me. And, yes, Dresden has so much musical history including the worlds oldest orchestra, the Staatskapelle. Its such a rich place musically. We should remember that the Iron Curtain was only up for 40 years or so, which is such a short period in the citys history. Music was an essential part of Dresdens character for hundreds and hundreds of years before that. It always will be.
Q: With all the intensity of opera, what do you do to decompress off-stage?
RP: When we are preparing seven days a week for a new production, it is a very intense period. During times like this, it is important to relax, even do nothing. I will spend time alone in the hotel with a book or sit in a coffeehouse for hours not really speaking to anyone. After opening night, its easier. I will spend off-days at museums and galleries or playing golf, if I have time.
I moved back to Dresden last year from Berlin. It was 20 years of travel, basically living in hotels and bad apartments, going back lonely after a big performance. So having a nice home now outside of town with a lovely view of the River Elbe is important to me. Its a fantastic place to live, and I like to cook there all day, a little of everything pasta, fish, schnitzel. And I have my little dog there, a dachshund. His name is Wotan