This article was first published in the September 2015 issue of  Limelight

John Wegner is one of opera’s success stories. An immigrant whose drive and determination took him from extra chorus for the Australian Opera in Melbourne to the dizzy heights of a leading Wagnerian Heldenbaritone at Bayreuth, his is a career to celebrate. And yet those festivities never quite happened. Still at the height of his powers, a series of frustrating ailments that proved impossible to throw off forced Wegner to withdraw from high profile performances at home and abroad and no one quite knew why – including the singer himself. Only when Parkinson’s disease was diagnosed last year did it all add up, by which time a triumphant retirement looked like turning into a struggle to conquer illness.

John Wegner with his 2009 Helpmanns. Photo supplied

At first Wegner wanted to keep it to himself. “I was very quiet about it for a month or so. I didn’t tell very many people except family and close friends and I really didn’t want it in the media. After a while I relaxed and now I am quite open to people knowing about...