Oh god, yesterday was a disaster. The sum total of my achievements: painted my nails (Chanel April, already chipping at the edges, such is my great manicure skill) and went to the supermarket (but forgot loo roll, the reason I went). I also shifted a few sections of text around, but since I don't think it was an improvement, I am not including that in the list. I realise being unable to work unless you have a deadline snapping at your heels is a relatively common flaw, but the attendant self-loathing and imminent ruin is just too much for me, and the rot must be stopped. I am attacking today with new resolve: no social media until after sunset, no dawdling around newspaper websites, no desultory blog reading or daytime cake. Ok, it is Wednesday, so I only have approximately three hours in which to do, well, anything, but no matter.
I have mentioned in passing on Twitter that my younger son - 8 - is currently involved in an admirable opera related project at school. Representatives from La Monnaie, Brussels' excellent, lively opera company, who you may recall are basically responsible for the creation of Belgium, are coming into school to teach classes of 8 year olds about opera. It is all good and un-gulaglike (the gulag being a normal state school, if frighteningly strict and also rather keen on '80s disco numbers for school performances), and thoroughly laudible and I'm especially tickled, because I used to go the opera lots in my teens, being a colossal dweeb. But. I confess I am also quite inappropriately entertained by the choice of opera they are teaching, which is La Traviata. I am sorry but THIS IS HILARIOUS.
You remember La Traviata, the internet? Dumas' La Dame aux Camélias set to music, a tale of tuberculosis, courtesans, self-sacrifice and DEATH of course, lingering, operatic death. Here is La Monnaie's own description, from the programme:
"What better to represent desire, fragility and secrecy, the three themes around which the season’s artistic project is constructed, than the tragic story of Violetta and Alfredo? If one of Verdi’s most beautiful heroines, based on Alexandre Dumas’s character Marguerite Gautier, finally dies of tuberculosis, other forces militate against her passionate love for a young man from whom she hides her illness until the end: prejudice, morality and conventions. The Lady of the Camellias should not only be seen as a highclass prostitute. Her reputation is as dangerous as the syphilis that worries the bourgeoisie that frequent the brothels. Following Kát’a Kabanová, Andrea Breth brings us her vision of the heartbreaking journey towards death of a woman who, with her last breath, still wants to believe in the miracle of human passion."
Indeed. Also: the picture.
Well, there should be challenging things and light and shade in a child's life and education, surely. Rather this than Bakugan Battle Dimension. And perhaps most operas are full of sex and death? Yet I do wonder how they are planning to explore some of the more challenging themes, and wish with all my heart I could be in the classroom to hear it.
Occasional snippets are filtering out from Fingers, who is gratifyingly enthusiastic about the whole business. Last week was the first "opera day" and I learnt about the early death of Verdi's wife and his children, and how heartbroken he was and his vow only to write tragedy. I also heard about his latter 'friendships' with other women.
"What, he had three wives?"
"Non, he had a wife and then.. some others".
(I do not know how true any of this is. It is filtered through an eight year old.)
Fingers also asked me the following question as he sat in the kitchen watching me lovingly prepare a meal of breaded chicken waste and oven chips.
"What do you call a man who makes women fall in love with him and then abandons them? I can't remember".
"Hmmm. A cad? A seductor?"
"No. No, he seduces them and then abandons them but it's not seductor. It's something like .. dojo?"
"Ah! A Don Juan?"
"Ouais! C'est ça!".
He spent the remainder of the evening gently humming arias from, and explaining, Rigoletto (also contains adult themes). There was some discussion of Nabucco and Falstaff too, but I was out of my depth and must brush up on my Verdi.
Yesterday was second opera day, and apparently they spent the whole session playing games around the theme of Verdi's Requiem, to which I say, La Monnaie, I salute you, because I can't think of many pieces of music less suited to games with 8 year olds than a Requiem mass. Fingers' written description of the day was .. enigmatic. "I listened to Verdi's Requiem. I carried my friend Victor".
The whole term of opera-based hilarity culminates in ... A PERFORMANCE, by the whole class. Imagine! This is going to get me through the long, dark evenings when the Great British Bake Off has finished. I promise to keep you apprised of all courtesan death based developments.