Sometime in the mid-eighties my Saturday mornings became a cultural wasteland. I can’t remember when exacty – or why I was still watching cartoons so close to adolescence – but some genius decided to replace my beloved Bugs Bunny Show with some live-action ‘educational’ kids show. That was about the time I found something else to do on Saturday mornings, which I suspect was the ultimate goal of the lineup change.
There are consequences to removing a cross-dressing rabbit, greedy black duck and speech-impaired lilliputian hunter trying to eviscerate each other to the classics for our amusement from the morning roundup, and the Big Guy and I only realised how damaging they were when we tried to expand our own offspring’s horizons.
Hubbard Hall, a local community theatre and art center in Cambridge, NY has transformed all our lives with its magic over the years, but when we first tried taking then-twelve year old Thing1 to an opera we thought we’d reached the limits of its magic.
Thing1 was a typical twelve year old boy. He loved getting dirty, building forts, playing computer games and not going to art museums or plays in which the cast occasionally begins singing, let alone sings for the entire production. So we had to do some convincing before we ultimately laid down the law, but we thought it would be easier.
“You’ll love it,”I said (my standard first line).
“I hate singing,” answered Thing1. “Why do I have to go?”
“You don’t have to sing,” I told him.
“I hate listening to singing,” he said. I reminded him how much he loved a Hard Day’s Night.
“That’s almost all singing,” I said.
“Good songs,” he said.
“There are good songs in opera,” I said. “You’ve probably heard a lot of them..” And then I realised he hadn’t.
There’s really nothing on Saturday mornings, even when we had TV. There are loud and obnoxious shows – a few cartoons. But there’s nothing whimsical and none of them play Puccini. Or Mozart. Or any of those tunes I loved picking out when I was dragged to my first opera on a school field trip.
So when the Big Guy and I stumbled on a DVD set of the classics for $19.99, I was overjoyed. Thing1 missed the first opera, but we made sure he was prepared for the next one. Over the next year we made sure Thing1 and Thing2 got a good dose of cartoonish cartoon violence backed up by some of the most beautiful music ever written.
Last year Barber of Seville came to town, and the boys both resignedly put on their good jeans and clean shirts, but when the opening bars began to play, they both looked at us with grins on their faces. Then it was our turn to smile.
That’s right boys. That’s opera.