music · OBSERVATIONS · slice of life

Budding Opera Fan

Just before we left my parents house last Saturday, I found my dad and Isabelle sitting on the couch watching a performance of the Vienna Opera on PBS. Yes, that’s right. The Vienna Opera. And it wasn’t a kids’ performance either. It was the real deal.

Isabelle was listening intently to the singers and musicians. She clapped dutifully at the end of each song. (Or is it called an aria in opera? I wouldn’t know because I’ve never been an opera lover!) In fact, as I packed up the car, she played with her toys while the concert from Vienna played in the background. She was beyond patient with the long pack-up process thanks to the opera.

“Do you have any opera CDs you can loan us for the car ride home?” I asked my dad. “I want to see if playing opera keeps her calm in the car.” (She hasn’t enjoyed long car trips lately.)

“Yeah. What opera would you like?”

“I don’t know! I don’t even like opera. Do you have any Vienna Opera?”

“No,” he replied.

“Then you pick, Dad.”

He went into the living room and returned with a double-disc of “La Boheme.” He handed it to me and said, “I think she’ll enjoy this.”

As we headed out I put one of the CDs into my car’s CD player. Sure enough, Isabelle was quiet for the duration of the CD. That got us to the NJ/PA state line! Impressive!

* * * * *

I was preparing dinner on Monday evening when Isabelle began saying “Op-ba, op-ba, op-ba!”

“Do you want to listen to opera?” I asked.

“Yes!” she declared smiling.

I grabbed the second “La Boheme” CD and put it in our house’s CD player. But the CD player spit it back out. Shoot.

“This happens sometimes. Be patient,” I requested.

I tried inserting the CD again, but it was promptly spit back out.

“Op-ba, car! Op-ba, car!” Isabelle said.

“You want to listen to opera in the car?”

“Yep!” she said, happy I understood her wish.

“Mommy’s making dinner now. I can’t take you into the car to listen to opera.” I paused. What was I going to do? My toddler is demanding opera. How can I not comply?!!?

“Let’s try the cable TV music stations,” I offered while I searched for the remote. “I’m sure they have an opera station.”

I turned on the TV and plugged in channel 400. It was something that sounded very un-operalike.

“NO!” Isabelle said.

“Give me a chance to find it,” I said, scrolling through the music stations as quickly as possible.

Soft rock. Hard rock. Jazz. Smooth jazz. Hip-hop. Classical. Toddler Tunes. NO OPERA!

“They don’t have any opera on here sweetie,” I said.

“Op-ba, op-ba, op-ba!”

“I know!” Why didn’t I think of this sooner? “Let me download some opera onto my iPhone.”

Try navigating iTunes for opera when you don’t know squat about opera.

VIENNA OPERA — I typed into the search.

I found individual songs, but couldn’t find an album that I could settle on quickly.

I searched “opera” and found ones I’d heard of like “Carmen” and “Madame Butterfly,” but I didn’t know if she’d like them. I looked at Isabelle. Tears were coming out of her eyes and she was tugging on my leg. Do I just buy something?

That’s when I saw it. An album by the Three Tenors. Even though I could only tell you two of their names, I settled on that. $11.99. She better like it, I thought as it downloaded.

A minute later the verdict was in. The crying stopped. She looked at my iPhone satisfied and went off to play. The only time she looked up was to clap at the end of each track.

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13 thoughts on “Budding Opera Fan

  1. My dad learned to love opera during his years at Columbia when students could “stand” in the back of Lincoln Center for 50 cents (long ago). He tried and tried to get us to enjoy his cherished records,, but it never clicked with any of us! I will, however, admit I used opera to calm a long ago, colicky baby. One day, my dad was watching him and it seemed to help! Now, I LOVE to listen to SOME opera (Carmen and LaBoheme are favs) when I write and when I clean! There might just be a genetic link on some gene that takes us to opera when we need it!

  2. I wonder if there’s any research on toddlers and opera. Interesting how it engages her. At least your dad will be happy to have an opera buddy.

  3. Stacey,
    Your opera story is so precious! I have no opera knowledge whatsoever! I do know that if you can please an upset toddler by playing music it’s worth every penny. Glad it worked out and she liked the music!

  4. I love listening to opera, but mostly cannot say what or who, just enjoy the sounds. This is great that you discovered it for Isabelle, Stacey. I thought it was pretty funny with you looking through ITunes, but you can find good things also on Spotify-easy on the laptop or phone!

  5. I love this story. My fondest memories of my grandfather are listening to opera. It never stuck with me, though. Like you, I may recognize a few names. How my mother would love to have a granddaughter who loved opera.

  6. The kid has great taste! It’s only a matter of time before she’s ready for a performance at the Met. And I bet she’ll love the place!

  7. I love that your daughter demanded to listen to opera. How could you not find some for her? I wouldn’t have the first idea about where to look or what to buy since I have no opera experience…unless you count the old Bugs Bunny cartoons that played the Marriage of Figaroo…or something like that.

  8. Your story is so fun! I have never been a fan of opera so I wouldn’t know where to begin in finding music. I am floored that she finds it so calming since listening to it makes me tense. I too love that she knows when to clap. You built tension well with your pacing. Loved it. 🙂

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