Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Brooks Kids at La Traviata

...getting the opera treats ready, a bag for each act...
Leo and I both had our misgivings about taking the kids to the opera so we set out in different ways to prepare them for La Traviata yesterday.

Leo brought out a Christmas gift to him from Pat and Mark dated 1996 – 100 Great Operas: Act-By-Act Synopses by Henry W. Simon.

Not everyone has that volume in the home library. He also gathered together some “best of the operas” CD’s and played them. As well, we had gone to utube to look at some clips from old LaTraviata operas.

Mary prepared our snacks. I tried to help but her kids don’t like all sugars. My mini-Cadbury crème eggs and caramel filled kisses were rejected. But Leo had lucked out with the half price candy at the Candy Barn and he knows it is the peeps and the jelly sours that his kids go for.

A happy sweet moment with 3 big bags of candy packed!
So we packed our zip lock snack bags in the morning, carefully labelling each one by name and subtitling the bag with the act that it was to be eaten in.

Rhiannon participated, packing her bags, though she was going to the babysitters, while the rest of us went to the opera.

 She even bagged up candy for Elijah, the little boy she would be playing with, as well as his one-year old sister.

Mary made the mother’s mistake of looking at the bag and taking half of it out when Rhiannon wasn’t looking.

Unfortuately Rhiannon knows the difference between the cup full and the cup half full.

"Where did my candy go?  This bag was right full?"
I weally, weally, weally want my candy back.
Her meltdown occurred just as we were leaving for the opera, and being unwilling to lay the body of a screaming child on the doorstep of a baby sitter, Mary stayed home with her instead and did income-taxes.

The kids and I had read the plot synopsis many times and talked about words like cameliia and courtesan, and the concepts of the insults and family honour.

The idea of the insult of throwing money at another person, something Alfredo does to Violetta in the second act, was foreign to them, so on the drive to the theatre we talked more about insults: ignoring someone who is talking to you, throwing money at people, offering them a hand gesture.

“What is a hand gesture?”, said Naomi from the back seat of the van.

“It looks like this,” said Xavier, and he clenched his fist and pointed his finger down toward the floor of the car.

“Usually the finger is pointed upwards,” I corrected him.

“But I didn’t really want to do it, just to give her an idea of how it is done,” he replied.

We talked a little bit about swearing at people as an insult, but Aunt Catherine has been teaching Hebe that saying forbidden words at people is more of a reflection on your character than on theirs. So we took it out of the list of possible insults and I thought to myself, learning  how to handle family swear words should be a conversation to be had another day.

As we approached the theatre I said, “Look, Leo, an arm gesture.” A woman had her window rolled down and her arm was flailing out the window and her jaw was moving at a quick speed.

“Yes,” Leo replied, “I am going the wrong way down a one-way lane in this mall parking lot.”

“Well, I didn't notice this was one-way, either.  We can add that arm gesture to our list of insults. Thank you to her for that.”

There is something about sitting in the IMAX beside a 10 year old and a six year old that feels like a miracle to me. We watch the patrons taking their seats in the New York Metropolitan Opera house, the camera scanning their way over the 4 balconies, and across the magnificent ceiling. The camera pans the stalls – there is a curly headed boy in a white shirt and a well-tailored suit sitting beside his family and I thrill to think ... I am them. I get to sit here for 3 hours with Leo and his kids and soak in Verdi’s melodies with all of the amazing visuals that go along with opera.

Leo buys the kids slurpees at the first intermission, which is a good thing. I don’t know that the last two acts run in tandem until the announcer says, “We will know listen to Acts 2 and 3. The change between the two acts was cleverly choreographed – the chorus walked off the stage backwards, taking small steps backward until they had all left the stage through the one open door to the set. They walked while the overture to the third act was playing, making a seamless transition between the two acts. Dr.Grenvil walked forward in the same direction as they were walking backward, and it looked as though he was pushing them back into the world of life and preparing an empty space in which Violetta would sing her last arias for us.

The encore is on on the 28th of April, well worth the time and effort it takes to get there.

Postscript for the historically curious: In the cemetery of Montmartre, directly below the white church of the Sacre Coeur, tourists still visit the grave of Marie Duplessis, the original traviata (or misguided girl). She died Feb 2, 1846 just 19 days after achieving her 22nd birthday. Among her numerous lovers during her last years had been Alexandre Dumas fils and Franz Liszt.

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