I've been on an opera kick. Primarily German opera. I went through the same fascination in undergrad but didn't have the privilege of Wikipedia or the criticism of George Bernard Shaw on my Kindle. I've been listening to German opera in general on Pandora and recently bought The Ring Cycle on iTunes. My intent is to understand Wagner and not be intimidated by him.
Things that I've learned so far:
- Keep the melody simple: You may think that opera is complicated or the writing is complicated. Both can be complicated. But the best writing creates a familiar melody that anyone can follow. Don't be afraid of being familiar. Don't be afraid of being melodic. That's what people remember and that's what people allude to when they speak of greatness.
- Be dramatic: Opera is always dramatic and the writing of prose or the libretto follows suit. Something always has to happen. If you are writing long paragraphs where nothing happens you might want to rethink your approach. In drama, things happen. Don't be afraid of action. Action is what makes writing exciting.
- Draw from many sources: Wagner drew from national myths and literature. Why can't you? Drawing from well known myths makes your writing seem deep and prescient. Learn from your country's past. Write about your country's past. Literature is history even though it may innovate in form.