My grandfather was a dedicated opera fan. This was way before television so the only way to “see” operas was to physically be at the performance. And since I was the only one who shared his love of operas, I often went with him. I may have been five when I watched the first opera. And it was instant love. The experience created a special bond between us a bond I cherish to this day. When my kids came along I made it my duty to introduce them to operas the way my grandfather had done for me.
Well, a few things conspired against my big plans. For one thing, we now had movies, heck, even drive-ins. This is America, not a little town in the Italian Alps.
Next to the movies you had television as competition and…opera wasn’t so popular in the states as it is in Italy. I grant you that listening to hours of drama sung in Italian isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I was determined to get my boys ‘exposed’ to culture and nothing could stop me.
In the middle 80s when my youngest child reached what I considered the appropriate age, Orange County performing Arts building was the newest and brightest star as far as opera went. Big names, popular shows and glitz galore. And get this…they had what I call electronic ticker tape running on the ceiling of the stage, translating in English what was being sung in Italian…a first for sure.
La Boheme was the opera. My favorite. I could close my eyes and hum along. And no matter how many times I’ve seen the same glorious scene, I still get emotional, like…I cry…no…I sob.
There I was in the dark, mascara running down my cheeks and happily sobbing away.
“Mom, why are you crying?” The concerned child asked.
“Because,” sob, “Mimi is dying. You see? She’s very ill, she’s dying.” More sobbing.
After a long pause, the child said, “If she’s so sick why is she singing so loud?”
I stopped sobbing long enough to hear the neighboring patrons of the arts snickering.