He’s worked with and assisted Mackerras, Boulez, Goodall and Jurowski – but bit by bit, British conductor Anthony Negus has joined their ranks with his clear-eyed, sensitive readings of Wagner’s operas. Negus is now leading Melbourne Opera’s  Tristan and Isoldein what is a coup for the independent company. Here the Wagner specialist shares his insight into some of the most complex works in the canon.

Wagner is quite obviously a composer close to your heart. What was your first  encounter with him?

I think it must have been an LP record. Toscanini conducting. I was always very keen about Toscanini, and there was a record called  Toscanini conducts Wagner: Volume One with a beautiful gold medallion of his head on the front, and it contained the  Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey from  Götterdämmerung which completely got me hooked. As well as the  Tristan Prelude and  Liebestod, and the  Parsifal Prelude and Good Friday Music.

Anthony Negus. Photograph: supplied

That’s the perfect first introduction, really. 

Oh, it was. And then my parents were very keen anyway about opera, and so bit by bit we went to Covent Garden and I saw my first  Rheingold, and I saw  Meistersinger when I was still at school, and so on. We went as a family to...