I once, in the mid-'70s, had occasion to lunch with the great Boris Goldovsky — famous for his Metropolitan Opera broadcast intermission features, and general manager, dramaturge, director, and music director of his own opera company — at his New York City studio (a half-gruesome, half-comic tale in its own right which I'll relate in a subsequent entry on this blog*), and over lunch opera was, of course, the subject of conversation. Goldovsky loved all opera, needless to say, but had a bit of a monomania concerning Mozart whom he insisted on referring to as He Who Was Not Of Woman Born. In short, Goldovsky was a near-worshipper of Mozart.
Eventually, we got around to discussing Wagner, and at just the mention of the name, Goldovsky turned his face toward the ceiling, threw his arms up in a sort of helpless gesture (Goldovsky was a native Russian, and, well, you know just how emotional Russians can get, especially after tucking away three or four shot glasses filled with lethal-strength vodka), and declared passionately in a vodka-thickened Russian accent which I here won't even attempt to mimic, "Wagner!, Wagner! He consumes me!"
I at first thought he was merely engaging in a bit of stage business to create a dramatic moment to precede some point he wanted to make. But it was no stage business. The man looked positively stricken.
I, of course, was stunned speechless, and my astonishment must have shown on my face because he quickly caught hold of himself and, poised and quietly, explained, "Every time I conduct Wagner the world disappears, and for days after, all other opera seems nothing but shit. Verdi is shit. Puccini is shit. Tchaikovsky is shit. Even Beethoven is shit. And...," and here he paused, leaned his face close to mine, lowered his voice conspiratorially, and with genuine distress written over all his features, he, in a hoarse, shamefaced whisper declared," and, Mozart...even Mozart is shit."
I then understood him perfectly.
Indeed I did — and still do.
* That half-gruesome, half-comic tale can now be read here.