Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Jan Woloniecki: Opera Fanatic of the Decade

Jan Woloniecki
Jan Woloniecki

We ponder – for a bit – the nature of hobbies: those avocational pursuits that run the gamut from harmless amusement to life-dominating passions.

I will confess up front that I am a collector, and so I’ve got a certain insight into this hobby-thing that a non-collector/non-hobbyist will not have.

My first wife, bless her, was a non-collector, which is, I think, one of the primary reasons why she numbers as having been my “first” wife. She couldn’t understand my “materialistic” desire – neigh, my passion – for acquisition. Indeed, she saw no distinction between collecting, accumulating, and hoarding. (FYI, according to yours truly, “accumulating” is the act of merely acquiring objects without theme, rhyme, or reason. Hoarding is the indiscriminate accumulation of objects, to the degree that the hoard itself – the stockpile, the mass – is the point of the assemblage rather than the particular objects within the assemblage. “Collecting” is a very different sort of thing. Collecting is the selective acquisition of like objects, chosen, researched, and arranged in such a way as to describe some sort of narrative.)

To my mind, collecting is an attempt to give structure and shape to the chaos that surrounds us; an effort to control our immediate environment with objects of our choosing; an attempt – a vain attempt, admittedly – to achieve immortality through objects that will surely outlive us; objects that in fact we never truly own but only lease.

(I didn’t say that collecting was necessarily a mentally healthy pursuit, and I still shiver when I recall the evil eye I used to receive from my first wife when returning home with a new find. But when considered against such pursuits as skydiving, bungee jumping, rock climbing and go-cart racing, collecting must at least be considered a physically safer pursuit.)

 In the world of music, the opportunities for hobbyists are seemingly limitless. On the modest side, one can collect vinyl and cds, sheet music, autographs, programs, posters; at the upper end one could collect instruments, composers’ manuscripts, jukeboxes, Elvis’ jumpsuits, etc. 

Then there are those fine folks whose hobby, whose passion is performances, and yes, this is finally where this lengthy preamble has been heading all the time. A couple of months ago I promised to introduce you to someone named Jan Woloniecki, who collects opera performances they way Malcolm Forbes collected Faberge eggs.……

Learn how I met Jan Woloniecki and his collection on Patreon

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