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  • Ann Palen, violin

Gardening with Wotan

Memorial Day Weekend is when I put in my garden. I know many people put theirs in weeks before, but I can never seem to. It’s either raining or I have concerts to play and have to be careful with my hands. But here it is, Saturday, 90 degrees, bright and sunny. My husband and I work in our plot behind the garage. He has a habit of turning on the old boom box when he works outside, and this day is no exception. He almost always listens to WFMT and because it is a Saturday, the Lyric Opera broadcast is on. The music drifts out of the garage and I recognize the voice immediately….Eric Owens singing Wotan in Die Walküre. We had played it six months prior, but I know the voice. I loved playing our production of Walkure. As I pull weeds, repair rabbit fencing and turn dirt, I am struck by how fortunate we are in Chicago to have a first rate opera company. It adds an incalculable dimension to the cultural landscape of our city. Opera adds to our lives. It is one of the many things that knits us together, makes us a community. I have had many pleasant conversations with audience members walking to the parking garage after concerts. Over the years, adults have told me their first Lyric experience was at a student matinee and they have a gleam in their eye with their memories of it. So how do I calculate the value of opera? The part that does not show up on the ledger line? Well, on this hot day of dirt digging, I am graced with the beauty of Wotan’s voice. I gardened with Wotan often do you get to garden with a god?

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