A Night at the Opera

Have you ever had one of those days when you looked in your closet and picked out several things to wear, all the while thinking of each, Nah this won’t do? That’s how I’ve been the last several days with blog posts. I started one on writing tips from Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon (yes, really; it’s almost finished) and one on the great outdoors (less finished). But this post you’re reading is neither of those (Perhaps you’re thinking, Whew, I dodged that bullet), nor any of the other ideas I had swirling around in my head.

Last week, a friend of mine and I attended a student production of Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute (which also is playing at the Civic Opera House in Chicago). Though I have attended several operas over the years, and enjoyed them, I can’t say I’m an opera aficionado. But I have friends who love the opera, and one friend who is an opera soprano (and a faculty member at the University of Illinois). So, that’s how I found myself at the opera several times.

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I didn’t know the storyline of The Magic Flute beforehand (click storyline in the first part of the sentence for the synopsis), though I’d heard one of its most well-known arias elsewhere. That aria, “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (“Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart”) is sung by the Queen of the Night, a character who does what is needful to regain her kidnapped daughter, Pamina. You can listen to that aria here if you like.

You probably already know this (if you do, you know way more than I did last week), but I’ll tell you anyway. The Magic Flute is a fairy tale that follows the hero’s journey model. We meet the hero, a prince named Tamino, whose call to action from the ladies of the court of the Queen of the Night is to rescue Pamina from Sarastro—her kidnapper. Along the way, he gains a sidekick—Papageno, who is forced to accompany him on this mission. In Act I of the opera, you start off with one idea about who is good and who is evil, then find that notion overturned in Act II.

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At left in black is Abi Beerwart, who played Pamina; in yellow, is Bethany Crosby, one of the ladies of the court of the Queen of the Night

I love the hero’s journey story model and fairy tales. Having grown up on a steady diet of fairy tales and musicals, thanks to parents who took my brothers and me to musical performances, this opera was right up my alley. I love that my assumptions were overturned, but not in a frustrating, this-doesn’t-make-sense kind of way.

Several small children in the audience were very vocal in their commentary. Some burst into tears, wanting to leave halfway through the production. Others, knowing cast members, cheered when their favorites appeared. Still others just wondered what was going on. Early in the performance, I had the same question. But at least the children were there, soaking in the rich tapestry that was The Magic Flute.

I’m reminded of a recent post at Jennie’s blog, A Teacher’s Reflections.

Major pieces of art? Masterpieces? Introducing this to preschoolers? It is not easy to explain to people how and why art can make a difference with young children.

You have to read the post (click recent post above to do so) to understand why I thought of it as I wrote this post. Jennie ends the post with, “Art makes a difference.” Perhaps watching The Magic Flute will be life changing for the children who attended it as well.

What kinds of art (musical performance, movies, books, animation, dance, painting or other forms of visual art) were you exposed to as a young child? What difference did it make in your life?

P.S. Extra bonus points if you can guess where I got the title, “A Night at the Opera,” from. Though I had one specific source in mind, there is another possible answer.

Photos by L. Marie.

Bring Back the Joy

If you stopped by out of curiosity about who won the tea, I’ll get to the winner in a minute. (Click here if you’re not sure what that statement means.) But first, I have to mention something I read today. You might have heard about the Florida teacher whose resignation letter went viral. Click here for that story. Now that I’m in the middle of a curriculum assignment, I pay more attention to articles about teachers.

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On Facebook, the teacher expressed an increasing frustration over a joyless education system, which led to her resignation. Well, the fact that she recently had a baby who will one day be educated in that same environment also played a factor in her resignation.

This isn’t the first post I’ve seen where someone expressed frustration or disgust over the current education expectations. But the fact that an excellent teacher was left disheartened made me sad. Since the letter went viral, others must share her frustration.

I don’t plan to argue for or against Common Core. In fact I can’t help thinking about another article I read, which explained why the answer to a math problem was marked wrong despite the fact that the answer was indeed right. (You can read that article here.) While I understand the author’s explanation, I can see a child’s or a parent’s confusion with it, especially if the goal for learning this way seemed convoluted or wasn’t explained at all.

I’ve heard experts say that “we have to be competitive” due to advances in technology. But if kids, parents, and great teachers are frustrated enough to want to quit, I have to wonder if we’re going in a good direction.

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When I was a kid, I loved school. I had joy in learning new skills. Because of that, I try to instill the joy of learning in the activities I write for kids. But as this frustrated Florida teacher mentioned, for some the joy seems to be gone.

I’ve seen this kind of disillusionment in other fields where assessment rubrics have increased exponentially and employees are bogged down in paper work.

Is it any wonder that the video game industry has proliferated? A video game provides a means of escape—a way to wind down. Books can provide that too. Yet lately, I’ve read but did not finish several books geared toward kids that seemed as joyless as the education system seems to that teacher. Where has the joy gone?

In the past few months I’ve heard more kids say, “I want to be a video game designer” than I’ve heard say, “I want to be a teacher.”

Food for thought.

Speaking of food, let’s get to the winner of Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend Tea and the crocheted leaves.

Without further ado, that person is . . .

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Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Penny of Lifeonthecutoff Blog

Penny, please comment below to confirm. Then please email your address.

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Education clip art from vector-clip-art.com and real-i-d.net.