15 Apr 2009

A Magnificent Voyage

Do you remember the opera scene in Pretty Woman? The one where Vivian is wearing that Eugene Alexander red dress with the ruby and diamond necklace worth $250,000? Anyway, it is Vivian's first experience of opera. They're sitting waiting for the opera to begin, when Edward says this:

People's reaction to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don't, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.

Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman
It has always stayed with me, that quote. Sadly, I think I am one of the latter group - the ones who can appreciate opera without it being part of their souls.

Jemimah, on the other hand just may be one of the former.

Her first exposure to opera was Mozart's The Magic Flute. We'd chosen Mozart as our composer for our first term of AO1, and had listened with pleasure to the Classical Kid's CD Mozart's Magnificent Voyage, a dramatisation of Mozart's life including many of his works.

The whole family enjoyed the CD so much that we purchased another of the series, Mozart's Magic Fantasy, based loosely on The Magic Flute.

The story of the CD revolves around Sarah, a young girl who magically finds herself inside a production of Mozart's great opera. Sarah, Prince Tamino and a faint-hearted dragon travel on a magical journey to free the Princess Pamina from the clutches of the evil Queen of the Night and to reunite her with her Prince. Along the way we became acquainted with - and came to love - the most popular themes and arias from the original opera, all translated into child-appropriate English verse.

From this free adaptation of the story we moved to Anne Gatti's retelling of the original opera in the book illustrated by Peter Malone and called rather obviously, The Magic Flute. The book included an audio recording of the opera - beautifully sung in the original German. In the book we were introduced to another villain, the Chancellor Monostatos, as well as to the old woman who wants to marry Papageno, the bird man. We were enthralled. By the time we had finished our serialised reading of this book - one short chapter and one audio selection per day, these arias were like old friends.

There was only one thing for it - we need to view the opera in its entirety.

We chose an Opera Australia DVD: The Magic Flute. Containing the entire two hour production, the songs in this production are translated into English. It is a beautiful production, and Jemimah just loved it. (I enjoyed it too, but Jemimah put on a performance worthy of Julia Roberts - she was gripped!) She has since watched it many times. It was a purchase well worth the $30.00 asking price.

We left Mozart and his magic flute about there. The DVD viewing was the culmination of term - a celebration for finishing a good term's study, and in term two we moved on to Ludwig van Beethoven.

It came as no surprise to discover that Jemimah's favourite Beethoven piece was his 9th Symphony, The Choral Symphony it's often called. It's the one surprise, surprise, with the opera singers, and a chorus in the last movement. She loved it, and still calls it her favourite piece of music.

I think I'm right in saying that Mimi has the opera gene. There's still one final test though...a real performance.

A few weeks ago we discovered that Opera Australia have a new production of The Magic Flute. After much consideration - opera is frightfully expensive, we have decided to go - and to take Jemimah...remember, she's only seven...

The website says this:

David Freeman’s daring production of Mozart’s final work for the theatre combines a talented array of singers with the aerial wizardry of physical theatre company Legs on the Wall. Expect exotic beasts, dancing animals and death-defying stunts. Above all, be amazed by Mozart’s music, which reaches out to young and old.
We'll let you know whether our decision was good or foolish. We've a good chance of it being a success, I reckon:
  1. We know the plot.
  2. More importantly, we know and we love the music.
  3. We've chosen an opera that's good for beginners. Mozart’s earlier operas were written for gilded court theaters, kings and aristocrats; The Magic Flute was written for a commercial theater and for the common people. Mozart took his seven year old son, Karl to see an early production The Magic Flute, and later reported to his wife that "the boy was absolutely delighted".
  4. We're going to a matinée. There is no point expecting a child to sit without fidgeting, scratching, humming, whispering or talking incesantly when it is past her bedtime.
There is something special about opera. Most people have an opinion one way or the other. To me the idea of seven-year-old appreciating opera is solely a consequence of her Charlotte Mason education. This, after all is what a liberal education is all about, isn't it?

Brava Signorina Mason!

1 comment:

  1. We'll look forward to hearing about your entire family's reaction to David Freeman's production. It sounds quite thrilling!

    I enjoy watching Max's involvement with opera more than I enjoy opera for it's own sake. A couple of times he's actually dressed up as Sammy from Benjamin Britten's "The Little Sweep."


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