Friday, December 4, 2009

Opera, not Oprah

What with HC attending innumerable rehearsals for our local theater's performance of Godspell in addition to her usual guitar lessons and track practice, I've been spending a lot of time in the car lately. I drive to school to pick her up, wait around while she gets her act together (I could get out of the car and get her attention, but it's cold out there, and I find it rather amusing to watch her dancing silhouette through the big glass doors anyway. I can always tell which one she is by her jazz hands and solo dance rehearsals.) I usually takes her a few minutes. Then I drive her to the theater, an hour later I drive back. Occasionally I drive up the 80 minute round trip to get A from boarding school, and drive him to the Marine recruiting station and back. I drive here and there, I drive hither and yon, I drive, I drive, I drive...

Lesson #1: Driving gets boring after a while.

Especially since my cd player is very finicky, which means most books on cd are rejected (and ejected) out of hand for no apparent reason. Harry Potter, ok. Mix CD #4, REJECTED. Doris Day, sure. Young Men and Fire, REJECTED.

Yes, I have a Doris Day cd. Don't judge.

Luckily, my most precious cd in the world is apparently worthy of my snobbish cd player. In fact, I found the cd itself on one of my more boring chauffeuring expeditions.

After trying to make a mental grocery list, failing, and then pretending to be interested in an NPR special report of Cloud Computing, I decided to take advantage of a few extra minutes and pulled into a favorite haunt of HC and me: Goodwill. I know, I know, not exactly Breakfast at Tiffany's material, but who gets cheered up by looking though the window at stuff they can't afford, anyway, when they could wander on over to Goodwill and find some dirt-cheap treasures? Goodwill is excellent. Goodwill is lovely. Goodwill is, well, good.

Anyway, as I was saying, I took advantage of a few extra minutes and did a quick run-through of the thrift shop. Nothing really jumped out at me, but I stopped by the $3 cd rack just in case. While sorting through the stacks of no-name 90s alt rock bands, easy listening and old-news R&B, a rather scruffy young man approached me from the nearby coat-rack.

"Looking for anything in particular?" he inquired.

"Um, no. Just looking around. Thanks." I replied, keeping my eyes on the piles of unwanted music. I could see he didn't work at Goodwill, and really, I wasn't feeling chatty.

"Well just so you know, I look at those all the time," he said, "and there's never anything good." He turned away, apparently irritated with my less-than-engaging conversation.

Just then, I saw it: 50 Most Unforgettable Moments in Opera. My heart sang! My soul leapt within me. 50 Unforgettable Moments in Opera for only $3! Who could pass up such a thing? That's like a nickle a song! I hesitated only for a moment, as I considered that even the moments turned out to be less than unforgettable, what could it hurt? I took my treasure to the counter and eagerly trudged through the grey afternoon rain to my car, anticipation twinkling in every puddle.

In the car, I breathed a sigh of gratitude that my cd player didn't hiccough at my new acquisition. It immediately whirred and up popped the digital display "Track 1". Excellent! One hurdle down. When the first few strains of "O Mio Bambino Caro" drifted through my speakers, I was optimistic. When the first few notes of Kiri Te Kanawa's heavenly voiced followed, I was jubilant. Never anything good here, my foot! This was pure happiness on a silver disc. This was beauty at my beck and call. This, this was opera.

As it turns out, there are not actually 50 unforgettable moments on this particular cd. I only got about 17, since Vol.s 2 and 3 must still be floating around the Goodwill Super Center somewhere. I went back and looked for them, but no luck -- not that I expected it. I can't expect that level of success with every visit. I couldn't handle it.

Now, when I'm driving around, I blast this, my favorite cd, and am rarely bored. On my way to the grocery store, I sing my shopping list to "La Dona e Mobile," and I once had to pull over while I listened Placido Domingo's to "E Lucevan Le Stelle" so as not to crash into oncoming traffic. Other parents look at me strangely as they walk past my idling car in the theater parking lot, and I can only assume that they, too, are moved by the pure gold emanating out of the cracks and crevices of my little SUV.

That, or at the volume I play it, they're puzzled that it's not gangster rap.

Either way, it transports me (while I transport my stepkids), and I sometimes have a hard time coming back to earth. Occasionally HC jumps in the car bubbling over with news and gossip about school or theater practice, I have to pry myself away from a weeping clown to pay attention. Or...(shhhhh) I just smile and nod for a while.

Judging by the newsstands, there are a great many housewives who are going to have some free time on their hands once Oprah goes off the air. I have a suggestions for them:

You want heart-warming? Try La Boheme.
You want tragedy? Try Tosca.

You want something to give meaning to those domestic days that are less than thrilling? Try Opera, not Oprah.

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