Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Madama Butterfly...

David and I went to the Birmingham Opera this weekend to see their production of Madama Butterfly. This was the third time we've gone. I'm so glad David likes opera. We saw Rigoletto first, and then Aida. The opera is always held in the Alabama Theatre downtown. We can park in David's regular parking deck around the corner from work, and the theatre itself is gorgeous. It's one of those restored, art deco, 1920's theatres. The walls are covered in gold gilded images, there is lush red velvet everywhere, the bathrooms have a separate powder room with Chinese themed makeup mirrors. It's very grand. And we can get tickets really cheap. We went to the Sunday matinee, and the ticket office gave me two student tickets even though the guy knew David wasn't a student, so we got to see great opera for only $20. You can't beat that. When I think about how out of our price range opera in Washington will be, it makes me want to cherish the experience here even more. Watching opera is a little like coming home for me. I know this sounds weird to about 98% of my generation, so let me explain. My mother was an opera singer. She got her B.A. in voice from UNC-G, and she went on to get her M.A. in voice at the Cincinnati College Conservatory. We have book after book at home of photographs of her in various operas. She probably sang a role in Madama Butterfly at one point. I know she had the lead role of Mimi in La Boheme. Classic music and classical music training were largerts of my life from the time I was very little. Vance and I would sit around the piano every morning, and we would often practice sight singing (that's reading music and singing it with only one chord to guide you). Did we always jump up and down with joy when we had to do this? No way, but it'll grow on you. I was in a professional children's choir from age 11 to age 18, and we sang in every language imaginable. I might not have understood what I was singing, but I enjoyed hearing the strange phrases in Norweigan, Latin, Italian, French, etc., rolling off my tongue. Our choir was top notch, so UNC-G's opera department would come calling to get children for their opera productions. I was a street urchin in La Boheme, and I was a shepherd in Ahmahl and the Night Visitors. I loved it. I got to wear cool costumes and stage makeup and sing with some really great voices. Mom got us into the arts, and she drove us all over creation for rehearsal. Several years of piano lessons were mandatory in the Whitaker home. Music was something she really wanted to pass on to her children. Now I'm all grown up, and I have much less time for classical music in my life. I'm not in a professional choir anymore, and I miss it. I'm afraid that it may be difficult to continue the tradition, but I hope to try one day. But when I watch the curtain come up, and I hear the strains of a familiar Italian composer start to swell, I remember, and just for a minute, I go back. One of our family traditions was classical music. All families have traditions, and when we grow up, we inevitably have trouble continuing some of those traditions. But it is good to remember, and if we can, relive some of those memories where we are and share them. After all, they're part of who we are now, even if they're a little buried at the moment by daily life.

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