Monday, September 17, 2012

La Donna e Mobile

Art doesn't get much more aspirational than opera; sitting in a darkened theater, watching costumed divas parade through jewel box sets as their voices reach crescendo in a language many of us don't understand.

Opera makes for good drama in a book or in a movie, but the actual practice of attending, well, maybe it's like this.

When I was a kid I thought mushrooms were disgusting little bits of fungi, but now I adore them. In theory, I just need to sample more opera in order to make the taste bud palate in my brain more receptive to operatic charms.

There are the opera songs I like, but they're the more accessible ones. I never get tired of listening to Pavarotti sing La Donna e Mobile in Rigoletto. My husband, who does speak Italian, filled me in on the translation one afternoon after I'd put the song on repeat and turned up the volume, "You understand he's saying women are fickle or flighty, right?"

Me: "Oh, but it's still a really good song."

Him: "Yes it is. Would you like me to translate the rest for you."

Me: "No, thank you."

Sometimes it's better not to know.

I considered dragging my whole family to the opera for purposes of this blog, but between soccer games, birthday parties and piano practice that seemed like an impractical, if not impossible, proposition to complete by Monday.

Instead I smuggled CDs of La Boheme into the car.

"I've got new music for the trip to Grandma's house," I announced. The kids were understandably excited.

After all, based on my previous playlists an argument could be made that I'm really thirteen; a little Katy Perry, followed by Adele and this summer just wouldn't have been complete without our 'Call Me Maybe' sing-a-longs.

It was a rude awakening. After they got done making fun of the undeniable talent streaming forth from the car speakers, the backseat crowd began to beg for Z100. And I did exactly what anyone else trapped in a car with two children, ages eight and ten, would have done. I caved.

But I think I'll start playing opera during Sunday night dinner. Who knows, maybe it'll sink into our brains and some morning we'll awake with unaccountable cravings for Puccini and Rossini. Or mushrooms. I would definitely take mushrooms as an acceptable answer.


Unknown said...

I think I might be a thirteen-year-old right along with you with Katy Perry choices. Can't help it, she's catchy! I'm impressed that you're getting into opera! When we moved here, and NPR's classical hours was the only tolerable radio station during the middle of the day, I began to get into classical music. Never would have thought that.

Connie J Jasperson said...

Oddly enough it was a movie which got my then 12 yearold dayghter Meg into opera - The Fifth Element. You know, the Scene where the diva is singing, just before Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker bust up the opera house and way before Gary Oldman blows it up... what was I talking about ...oh yeah , opera... Any way right after that Meg insisted on watching La Boheme with Jose Careras on PBS and then Carmen with Placido Domingo, also on PBS! Now she is a woman whose personal music ranges from Rammstein to Andrea Boccelli.

And it is all Bruce Willis's fault.

Anne Gallagher said...

I used La Donna E Mobile as a signature song in my last novel. Uncle Sally's favorite.

Love the 3 Tenors video PBS put out about 100 years ago. I used to watch it all the time.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Good luck getting the kids to listen to it!

Beylit said...

We had to go to Opera's as part of my AP English classes in high school, and I loved it. I have two friends currently that are professional opera singers. I also can be caught dancing around my living room to Katy Perry. It just takes exposure.

Barbara Watson said...

One of my favorite movie scenes involves an opera--from Pretty Woman. I love when Julia 'gets' the opera, is crying just a bit, and Richard looks at her and smiles. Makes my heart pitter-patter each time I watch it.

Anonymous said...

I love opera. Always have, I think. Not mushrooms, though. Nope...not going to happen.

Johanna Garth said...

Caitlin, we're all big Katy Perry fans too :)

Connie, now I have a hankering to see that movie again.

Anne, I knew I liked you!!

Diane, thank you, I'll need it.

Beylit, couldn't agree more. All about exposure.

Barbara, awww, you made me remember that scene and I love it too.

Joshua, who would have thought opera is an easier sell than mushrooms.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'll take the mushrooms!

Emily R. King said...

I have never been able to get into Opera, but I LOVE maybe I should give it a try. :)

Shallee said...

I love opera. My first one was Carmen, and I went to see it three times when it was at a theater near me. I don't know what it is, but I love the music, the dramatic stories...and I just love live theater in general.

Ella said...

I love some opera and certain types of mushrooms ;D

It is an acquired taste....start with classical music and work them into it. 2Cellos play rock...very cool!

Angela Cothran said...

I could not keep mushrooms down when I was pregnant with my kidos. And now I just can't do it. Such a bummer :(

Talli Roland said...

I love opera! La Boheme is a great one, as is Madame Butterfly. So much drama!

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I hate mushrooms. :-P

I have really enjoyed the opera songs I've heard, but I don't really know a lot. I should check more out. :)

Michael Di Gesu said...

Sneaky mom ...

The Sunday dinner idea is perfect. I bet they'll like it once they don't fight it.

I laughed with the "13" comment. I am WELL over 13 and a dude and listen to Katy and "Call me maybe ..." when I am zipping down the lake front during my power walks.

A good tune IS a good tune.

Talei said...

I'm addicted to mushrooms and I do love a good Opera in the background whilst cooking, when the mood takes! For the record, 'Call me maybe?' - was stuck on a loop in my head for like, the entire month of July. I know, I know... I blame the workouts at the gym which I guess is a good thing?

Hope you are well! x

M Pax said...

I think you're right about opera needing time to grow on a person. The Sunday dinner sounds like a good plan.

dolorah said...

Now I'm hungry, for italian food :)

I like opera in small doses too - and this is a cool favorite. Hmm, I think you're right about not wanting the translation, lol. I like this song more for the rhythm, the muzac, so to speak. Course, I like elevator music too . .

Its good for our children to be exposed to new things - however briefly. I never appreciated some of the things (music, movies, readings) my parents forced on me, and later in life I was glad I could offer something on the subject though my vast (haha) experience. And even when my kids protest, sometimes later they say "hey remember when . ." and they are at least glad to have something unusual to present for a school project.

You never know what kids can use in educational projects, or later for uh, dating or impressing the boss :)

PS: yeah I would have caved!


Mark Koopmans said...


As WIP is a memoir of a former opera singer (google "Donald Braswell - America's Got Talent" :) I am researching other opera singers and if you've never heard Franco Corelli... oh my... *he* was the Prince of Tenors :)

Julie Flanders said...

I'm cracking up about the reaction to the opera in the car, I can just imagine LOL.

When I was in the 8th grade, we went to the opera on a field trip. We saw Rigoletto, and honestly the only thing I remember about it is the Donna e Mobile song. It is a great song and I still like to hum it to myself!

PK HREZO said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head with it being an acquired taste. I've never been to an opera, but I'd like to try. Like maybe in Sydney, just to make it really BIG! :)

Ali Cross said...

Your posts are so smart and funny, Johanna. I love them!

When my boys were little, I used to practice every day (I was an opera singer) and we'd listen to a LOT of opera. They grew up being able to sing along with it, lol.

They'd come into the house with friends and the friends would be like, "What's that?" and my guys would just shrug because "What? You don't know opera?" LOL

I don't really sing anymore and we're more a Katy Perry family these days than a Puccini family, but hey. A little culture won't kill them. :D

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