>opera, more opera, and choices worth making


If you are like me then your knowledge of opera is largely limited to a few Looney Tunes cartoons (Long-Haired Hare & Rabbit of Seville). I think that’s a bad thing, though I love those cartoons. Recently we got a CD of songs from various operas, sung in English, and geared towards kids – though adults will enjoy them as well. We have been listening to these songs in the car and the girls love them. Our two year old shouts out after each song, “again!”

With this in mind I have checked out some operas on DVD from the library and we just finished The Barber of Seville. We loved it. This is the 1982 version made for television and starring John Rawnsley as Figaro and Maria Ewing as Rosina.

Figaro will help Rosina

I was not sure how the kids would take to watching an Italian opera, first performed almost two hundred years ago, now made for 1982 television, with English subtitles, and more than 2.5 hours long. To my surprise and joy they were enraptured. Even our two year old would sit and watch it (sometimes transfixed), then clap at the end of each song. My eight year old watched intently and did not want to spread the viewing over three nights – which we did due to bedtimes.

What a great show. There is no need for me to go into the plot, or say how good the music is, or describe the performances. All that is well known and I am not yet knowledgeable enough to say much, except to say I think it is all really, really good. I can also say that I loved it and so did my family.

Everybody sings: Mi par d’esser con la testa
in un’orrida fucina
“My head seems to be
in a fiery smithy”

I can’t think of anything like opera. I am beginning to see why some people become smitten with opera. I think I could go down that path as well. But it was not always the case. Like most Americans I grew up absorbing our typical dislike of opera. It’s not that we Americans hate opera, though some do. It’s more that we (I mean most Americans of course) think it is funny and corny, something to make fun of and lambaste. It’s good for cartoons and occasionally setting the mood in a film, but not for putting on the car stereo or playing on the radio by the pool, or taking the time to go and see a performance. But for me that is changing.

Figaro has triumphed

The triumph of Figaro is my triumph too. By the end of The Barber of Seville I was thinking that more opera is in my future – and my kid’s future.

Years ago I saw a stage production of Bizet’s Carmen, which I loved. I don’t know why or how I got to the the theater. I only remember the music and the sets, which were wonderful. I had the same experience with Puccini’s La bohème. Why I did not see more opera’s I do not know. More recently I posted briefly on watching Das Rheingold on DVD. We still haven’t made it through that one. I realize now I need to see more opera’s more often.

Finally a note on parenting and some choices worth making. My desire is that my kids grow up loving good art, whatever the form or genre. I hope they love opera. At least they will have had some introduction to it. But whether they love opera or not is not really my concern. I am often taken aback by how many parents limit their kids knowledge and appreciation of art merely because those parents have limited themselves. Parents should continue to expand their own horizons, even get out of their comfort zone, not merely for their own pleasure and personal growth, but also because it will expand their children’s horizons as well. Kids are very attuned to what their parents are doing. So often when we don’t choose the choice is made for us. There are plenty of mediocre cultural products lying around for easy consumption. If we don’t make good choices about the art in our lives then our culture will supply us with mediocrity. That is, unfortunately, the default setting. As a parent I want my kids to know that there are great choices out there and that those choices are worth making – whether it’s about opera or anything else.

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