Night[mare] at the Opera, First Act

by Jules Older

Why be a father if you don’t use fatherhood to mete out to your children all those cultural advantages you so despised when you were young?

That’s my adage, and that’s why I use every family trip as an opportunity to enrich my daughters’ lives with things I know they won't appreciate. We lived in a town of under 200, so even a trip to Podunk was a cultural adventure. “Oh, look, kids — that’s a McDonalds!”

But it’s on family vacations to the big city where parental cultural hegemony really kicks in. And, as in school, there's not a darned thing the little ones can do about it.

Or so I thought. But that was before I gave my daughters the ultimate Believe-Me, You'll-Thank-Me-Later cultural experience: opera. In the fabled Sydney Opera House. 

Sydney Opera House

Oh, and not just any opera — ”Kids, we got lucky. You're not gonna believe this, but I managed to get us tickets to Madame Butterfly!”

They continued to jump from one hotel-room bed to the other, completely ignoring the tone of false heartiness I was trying so hard to pass off as enthusiasm. My wife threw me a look, which despite its brevity, managed to convey without so much as a misplaced comma, “You lugnut, when are you ever going to learn? If I’ve told you once, I've told you a thousand times — they're too young to be dragged kicking and screaming into high culture.”

But opera tickets are non-refundable. And thus, we found ourselves sitting front and center when the curtain went up. At first, the majesty of it all zapped my daughters into a dazed, hushed silence. But even majesty wears off, especially when people are singing/screeching very loudly in extremely high voices. And even more especially when, from a strictly visual viewpoint, the romantic leads are so poorly matched.

Madame B. was no slender Asian reed. Rather, she was a sturdy Teutonic type who might be better cast as Brunhilda and more comfortable wearing a horned helmet rather than a kimono. By contrast, the lovestruck Lieutenant — well, here’s how Daughter A (I use the A to protect her identity, which is Amber Older) loudly reacted to him: “Why is that man so little?!”

In a voice that rivaled those onstage, Daughter W (a.k.a. Willow Older) asked, “Is he supposed to be her boyfriend?”

I shushed them both and nodded. In an even louder voice, Daughter A bellowed, “He’s too old for her!”

Matching her decibel for decibel, her sister hollered, “And too small. Way too small. He’s just a teeny-ween—”

My wife and I reached over to silence our progeny, but not before everyone sitting within a 20-seat range did exactly the same. Between my daughters’ critiques and a chorus of “Shhhhh’s,” you could no longer hear the singers.

But as so often happens in these situations, things rapidly got worse. Despite the threat of The Death By A Thousand Shhhh’s from the surrounding seats, plus a rapidly escalating series of parental warnings (“If you don’t behave, we’re leaving right this minute!” “Yeaaa!” “OK, if you say one more word, you're grounded for the rest of the century!” “How long’s a century?”), my progenies’ loud commentary continued unabated throughout the entire first act. 

When we made for the exit at intermission, so did most of the people sitting around us. 

I never did figure out whether they were leaving because of my daughters … or because they too were only there because someone made them go. 



For more of Jules Older’s travel misadventures, check out his ebook:

Sydney Opera House at night by motiqua


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