Australia’s most respected director on what music means to him and how he learned to love Wagner’s epic.

Was opera a part of your childhood?

In a sense. When I was in year seven at high school we started to do plays and cut-down versions of operas. I was at Homebush High and I tended to be in everything because I was in the school choir. That year we did a cut-down version of Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienneand the following year we did a cut-down version of Barber of Seville. I became a youth subscriber to the opera when I was about 16.

So did it become an immediate passion for you, or was it something that you were just curious about?

I enjoyed it but it never struck me as something that was very theatrically interesting until I saw the film of Bergman’s Magic Flute. It was a bit of a smack in the face – it’s so purely theatrical. I saw it when it first came out, which was probably early 70s. And then I saw Elijah Moshinsky’s production of Britten’s A Midsummer Nights’ Dream, which again was a great shock theatrically, and it was suddenly very clear...