Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Learning About Opera: Madama Butterfly

As I've written before, we've been to many operas as a family, both regional professional and student productions in our home city and major professional productions in London and Berlin.  N. really enjoys going to the opera, so he was excited recently to go to a regional professional production of Madama Butterfly.

We're often familiar with an aria or two from an opera before we see it, but we've never studied them before we attend.  Thanks to supertitles we can follow the plots and let the magic of the production work on us.  After we go to an opera, we sometimes read more about it and listen to bits on records, CDs, or YouTube.

On the way home from the theater after Butterfly's tragic death, N. asked what that book was in our living room that said "Madama Butterfly" on the spine.  "Oh, that's right," we said, "that's the score.  You might enjoy looking at that."  Because Tim was once the stage director of a regional professional production of Butterfly in Minnesota, we have a CD of the complete opera as well as a full score tucked away with a couple other opera scores in the bookcase in the living room with all the piano, cello, and miscellaneous sheet music.  It hadn't occurred to either Tim or me that N. would be interested in this, but he very much was.  For the next few nights, he listened to the CD and studied different parts of the score, sometimes playing phrases on the piano, examining what changes had been made in the production we saw (which combined Acts 2 & 3 into one, for example).

This was another example of the power of the fortuitous in learning, a favorite theme of mine.  I love those learning moments when an experience sparks an interest and the right materials are in the right place at the right time to make the most of that interest.  We could never be prepared for every such possible moment, for we could never predict them all.  But it is gratifying to watch when everything aligns seemingly naturally for maximum learning.

Poring over the score.