My Turn: If you listen to the opera often enough ...

Posted: Friday, April 12, 2002

The thing about opera, of course, is that it is so insidious. I can't help thinking that ever since my 5-year old daughter started rehearsing for her part in "Madama Butterfly," our life has got a bit more, well, dramatic.

After an evening in the Music Room at Harborview School our gestures are all a bit bigger than they need be and I find myself wanting to use words like "never" and "forever." I'm going to slip "forsaken" into the conversation as soon as I get the chance.

So life as a theater mom is proving to be an interesting experience. There was a time (as I remind people at every opportunity - and here's another one) when I used to work in television news. It was live, it was exciting, it involved lots of electric cables and make-up. It was, in short, quite like being involved in Opera to Go! Except that this time (and it wounds me to say this) I am superfluous to requirements. I propel Alice on stage when the need arises but apart from that I sit at the back, fiddle with her hair clips and tell people they look nice.

The thing is though, for the mother of three very young children, spending the evening listening to Madama Butterfly, Pinkerton, Sharpless and the rest of the crew working Puccini's magic has been magical indeed. I've seen it coming together almost from the start, and I am still spellbound. And how enriching it has all been for young Alice. She has spent her evenings being clutched to Joyce Parry Moore's bosom, listening to operatic arias being sung with great beauty just inches from her ears. If nothing else it has ended her obsession with Julie Andrews.

Which brings us back to how sneaky opera can be. If you listen to it often enough it has a way of lodging itself in dark corners of your brain, and staying there, along with the Barney theme tune, Doh-a-Deer (a female deer) and all those other bits of musical debris that spring to your lips when you least expect it. The problem is that where you can spend the day hissing "I love you, you love me, we're a happy family" through your teeth without anyone really noticing, opera requires volume, passion and musical talent to pull it off. I have the first and possibly the second, but not a hint of the third. But that doesn't stop me having a go, much to the delight of those who live near me. At the moment I am particularly taken with one of Joyce's refrains. "To live again like that? I'd rather die."

"I'd rather die," I will exclaim unexpectedly over the breakfast table. My family members just keep on eating their Cheerios, but I have to remember to keep the windows closed.

Alice is similarly affected - although she is struggling with one of Pinkerton's more dramatic lines. "I know that I am guilty" she sang this morning as she hung her coat up at school.

"Goodness," said Miss Robyn, her teacher. "What have you been up to, Alice?"

Well that's a long story.

"Madama Butterfly" opens at 7:30 tonight at the Northern Light United Church, 400 S. 11th St., and will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on April 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27.

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