Love is a rebellious bird

Elmo’s World?

Okay, no. Different tack. Sleater-Kinney?*

Nope, Carmen. To be exact, Carmen’s first dittie, “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle.” A.k.a. the “Habañera,” here rendered with signature gusto by La Divina.

Last weekend we heard the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday radio broadcast of Bizet’s ever-popular opera as I was making blueberry pancakes, and the lil’ monkey was transfixed. The Met broadcast was something my mother used to listen to long ago when she was young. She used to do her ironing to it. For this reason alone — that I picture my mother, a young woman, in an apartment about a half-mile north of here, humming under her breath as she pressed the wrinkles out of the very few, likely very worn dresses she owned — for this reason alone, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Saturday Met broadcast. While she’s not here when I listen, she’s still here, somehow.

All the lil’ monkey needed to do was give one good listen to Carmen and Into The Woods, her mom’s upcoming summer youth music theater production, was decisively unseated (which itself had unseated Oliver!, which had unseated Amahl and the Night Visitors, I must admit, with some assistance from Baba who, while she loves Amahl et al., was nearing the edge of her tolerance).

Like so many kids her age, our daughter is a serial monogamist, musically speaking. And she does give each piece its due, if listening to it in its entirety mutliple times a day counts (both home and car need to be stocked). And then play-acting scenes from it. And then insisting she actually is one of the characters, and insisting that you be another. For a week, minimum, more like two or three. No, really.

How we’ll play-act any bona fide opera is a bit of a sticky wicket. I can’t imagine the opera (aside from Amahl, and maybe Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel) that doesn’t dish out heaping helpings of sado-masochism and female self-destruction in one form or another. Okay so maybe that’s an eensy exaggeration. But let’s take Carmen, for instance. How are we going to euphemise this plot? Um, trampy ho cigarette factory worker sleeps around, brags about it, lures some soldier guy, then dumps him to get with some bullfighter. She then gets a Tarot reading and resigns herself to her inevitable fate as homicide victim. Cheery, eh?

Instead, when the lil’ monkey asks “What’s happening now?” we’re all, “He wants to be her friend.” Or, “She’s saying how fun it is to have lots of friends.” Like that. I would welcome a G-rated version of opera plots, so that we could play her whatever she wanted from whatever canon she’d like. So long as it was in a language other than English, and we could go on lying to her about what true angst is behind the beautiful words being sung. Since lord knows she has plenty of time to learn that you really appreciate the beauty only after you’ve really known the angst.

*That would be a little advance PR for Girls Rock, (about which more next week), which is enjoying a Bay Area (and Los Angeles, New York, and Porland) debut this upcoming weekend

8 thoughts on “Love is a rebellious bird”

  1. It’s true that everything is pretty much sugar-coated in a toddler’s life, when you think about it. Although having seen the youtube clips of the Hamas bunny Assud on Gaza TV (google it), I would dispute my own point.

    We are about to launch ourselves on Rumpelstiltskin (puppet theatre next week) so I have unearthed my Ladybird fairytale books. She is still trying to wrap her little mind around the concept of the witch from Hansel and Gretel. Meanwhile our neighbour’s munchkin, who is the same age as mine, asked her mum: how is that the witch was nice initially and then became evil? And is my teacher a witch? One dumbfounded mum.

  2. Oliver! was my first original cast recording on CD. I had bunk beds when I was little, and I used to sing it at the top of my lungs and dance, using my beds as platforms and levels on the stage. The top bunk was Fagin’s place, and the bottom was the street.

    (my first record was Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. It’s now on my ipod and I listen to it constantly.

  3. Carmen was the first opera I ever saw live. I was 12 I think.

    All I remember was how moved I was, and how much my chair shook.

    I’m looking back on my Nana’s explanation of what was happening at the time and realize she cleaned things up for me considerably. LOL

  4. I forsee different variations on the plot over the years. Later, I’d like to make the point that Carmen was a righteous polyamorist who unfortunately partnered up with a posessive misogynist. A good self-defense class might have helped her a bit.

    This morning I couldn’t resist temptation, and I sang her the “Toreador-a don’t spit on the floor-a/ use the cuspidor-a/ that’s what it’s for-a” version of the Toreador song. This ushered in a day’s worth of requests for more spit-related humor.

    If I show her this, I’ll be in real trouble, since I know it would take me weeks to even do a simple scale:

  5. I have been following your blog for a while now. Today I feel compelled to post. Your writing is lyrical and beautiful…your photography intimate and joyful. Thanks for sharing both. Your blog is such a lovely trip into something fresh, organic and authentic. I am grateful.


  6. When you wrote this the kids were 3 and 1 year old… so far I haven’t seen them attach to a television set or games or cell phones like most kids their age… I read in one of your post that you believe in nurture because you had no nature or something like that..the message I took from that was: I may not have given birth to them but I through love, effort,hard work and the years that I’ll care for them Im gonna leave my imprint in not DNA, it is love that I offer to them… and so far I can see that love (yours and the beloved) all over their faces and expressions your kids seem to be having the most wonderful of chilhoods… fill with love, surrounded by family and friends (even the ones that are gone) beautiful background music and story time-telling. This is a post from 2008, the lil monkey is singing opera at that time everyother american under 18 was dancing and singing High School Musical songs…you can already be proud 🙂

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