Thursday, February 20, 2014

"When the Curtain Goes Up"

The Magic Flute at the ENO. Photo by Robbie Jack
I'm very proud of the fact that N. has become quite an opera lover.  While violent plays upset him, the tumults of opera do not (in fact, in making the case for being allowed to go to Othello with us in London, he cited the fact that he'd seen Carmen).  The arts conservatory in our city has an excellent graduate program in opera and there is a pretty good professional regional opera company which puts on two productions a year, so we have had many local opportunities to take N. to the opera.  Some of the works he has seen in our city in the past couple years include The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Barber of SevilleCarmen, and La Rondine.  Two weeks ago we saw a wonderful student production of Offenbach's Contes d'Hoffman, which N. absolutely loved.  He has been going around the house singing the catchiest snatches of the "Kleinzach" song ever since.  Thanks to our rejuvenated French studies, he also enjoyed picking out French words when he could recognize them as they were being sung.

In Europe last semester, we took advantage of being in major capitals of culture to see top-notch opera.  We saw the crazy production of Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream in Berlin that I wrote about earlier.  My brother gave us tickets to the season-opening concert of the London Symphony Orchestra for N.'s birthday, which happened to be a concert (non-staged) performance of Rigoletto.  It was so so so good!  We couldn't bring ourselves to pay the super-high prices charged by the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, but near the end of our stay in London we did splurge on tickets to the English National Opera's new modern-dress staging of The Magic Flute, which was really wonderful.  N. loved Rigoletto and The Magic Flute, especially the tenor's singing of "la donna e mobile" in the former and the excellent singer who played Papageno in the latter.

My primary acquaintance with opera before the past two years has been through CDs that collect famous arias.  I love listening to Maria Callas, Beverly Sills, Kiri Tekanawa, and famous singers of earlier eras work their way through the repertoire.  But I never bothered to learn more about most of the operas from which these pieces come.  I'd seen a few operas (Butterfly, Tosca, La Boheme), but I didn't know a lot about the form.  So I'm really enjoying N.'s developing love of opera because it's giving me the opportunity to learn more.  We don't study up on the operas before we see them, but let them wow us in performance; we follow up later, reading and listening and youtubing.  At the opera, all three of us feel a Betsy-Ray-ish excitement "when the curtain goes up!"


Erica MomandKiddo said...

The Magic Flute is my favorite opera - the perfect blend between Enlightenment and Romanticism. The Met has a production directed by Julie Taymor that is marvelous and they do a shortened version every year during the Christmas season that is marketed to families. I haven't taken my 9 year old yet, because he has a hard time with loud music, but I hope to one day.

My mom was an amateur classical singer and we went to a lot of opera when I was a kid. so I'm hoping that maybe at least my younger kid will be able to enjoy going with me.

Fanny Harville said...

I would love to see the Julie Taymor Magic FLute production!