Amy Graff, author of The Mommy Files, an SFGate.com blog, illuminates the powerful impact of and wonderful experiences surrounding Classical music performance. She highlights the thoughts, emotions, reactions, and impressions that were involved in taking her nine-year-old daughter to the opera.
Her daughter’s interest in opera emerged from their participation in a family (shortened) version of Bizet’s Carmen.
She was enchanted by the elaborate costumes, the richly textured voices and the bustling pageantry, and when I tucked her into bed that night she was humming Bizet’s beloved aria Habanera.
She was thrilled—yet also irritated because she didn’t get to see the full performance and missed an entire act. She felt cheated.
Ever since my daughter has been asking me to take her to a “real” opera, and last weekend her dream finally came true.
Amy took her now 9-year-old daughter to the War Memorial Opera House for their first Saturday night opera performance.
As her mother, I was a little nervous. Could my energetic and callow child sit through two-and-a-half hours of Verdi’s Rigoletto?
My mom gut told me that opera was right up her alley. My daughter likes tea parties, hoop skirts and books that take place in the 1800s. Her favorite movie is “Singing in the Rain.”
Amy describes her ticket purchase & decision-making process: I bought the cheapest seats. $27. In the very back of the balcony. Far to the side. (Just in case they had to leave in the first act.)
“I’m bringing my daughter,” I told her hesitantly.
“How old is she?”
There was a pause. I considered backing out. I recalled the tantrum my daughter had thrown last week. She’s only a child. Nine is too young, I thought.
She jumped into the silence with a reassuring, “That’s a good age to start!”
(Note to anyone who is inspired to go the opera from this story: We bought our tickets on the morning of the performance.)
She goes on to provide a lively anecdote of the entire evening’s experience – from choosing what to wear and finding a nice place to eat, to the captivating performance in the Opera House. Amy reminisces on her own cultural upbringing and her daughter’s reactions to Rigoletto:
I’d never been to the opera until Saturday night. My parents never listened to opera. Because of my daughter’s interest in opera, I borrowed a Madame Butterfly CD from the public library and we listened to it in the car a few times. This is all new to me and I’m officially an opera ignoramus.
But I will tell you that my daughter was mesmerized by the performance about a court jester named Rigoletto, whose daughter, Gilda, falls in love with a flirtatious, noncommittal Duke. She sat silently and only let out a faint “ewww!” when Gilda kissed the Duke. After the embrace, the lovesick woman lay on the ground singing, fluctuating her voice, sending out beautiful, pure sounds that fluttered about the opera house like butterflies.
When it was all over she clapped wildly and kept looking over at me and saying, “That was so good.”
Most patrons were delighted to see this happy, young face in the audience. Bringing her nine-year-old to the opera did not meet everyone’s approval, however. She experienced some less-than-favorable reactions from a few impatient and surly individuals. Despite these unreasonable and unfortunate encounters, Amy Graff and her daughter continued to have a great time. I commend both of them for their sense of curiosity and exploration, their willingness to be open-minded and accepting of cultural arts, and their overall optimism and inclusive attitudes.
… the opera needs her (I agree!). She’s enthusiastic and in love and after the show was done, she asked when we’d return. She’s got me thinking about investing in season tickets (in the back balcony, of course) and I’d be surprised if she doesn’t turn into a regular opera patron.
We sat among a sea of empty seats, and my daughter was quite disturbed by the vacancies and troubled that the show wasn’t sold-out.
“Mommy, why aren’t there more people here?” she asked. “If I could, I would come every night.”
I started going to the opera and to symphony orchestra performances when I was about her daughter’s age. The continued exposure over time not only introduced me to an entire world of fantasies, dramas, adventures, love songs, and lessons in history, science, and art, I became more aware of international cultures and developed a passion for music. Now I am pursuing arts management in Washington, D.C., with plans to continue playing and teaching flute and piano. I couldn’t be happier and I couldn’t agree with Amy more. I think it’s so important that children are exposed to cultural arts events, for the reasons I have already mentioned and so many more.
Were you introduced to the arts as a child? What community events do enjoy participating in?