‘My most unfortunate career-defining moment was when I sang Parsifal in Bayreuth, where I had already made successful appearances as Walther von Stolzing and Erik. I argued with the director, Christoph Schlingensief, who insisted on his own, very peculiar and solipsistic vision of the piece. His production was a mishmash of satanic rituals, orgies, garbage and hundreds of video projections, while I tried as much as I could to keep to Wagner’s intentions. The German media, which solely advocates provocative opera productions, criticised me harshly for arguing with Schlingensief. I was too naïve at the time to calculate what the consequences of disagreeing with him might be.
‘I’m still proud of what I did, and that I stood up for Wagner’s music, but in the end I lost not only the love of my life – Katharina Wagner – but also my conviction of the good in most people, which I assumed prevailing in my early life. Schlingensief died of cancer in 2010. That whole period was very unhappy.’