Thursday, August 23, 2007

Happy Boy, alla vittoria!

Happy Boy didn't have a good night last night. Our family has been hit with a mild cold, and both he and the Adrenaline Junky have been feeling under the weather. Last night Happy Boy wasn't very happy; he kept waking up crying. We somehow managed to make it through the night, but weren't very rested by morning.

After I had gotten up and dressed this morning, I took not-so-Happy Boy into the dining room and put him in his high-chair, and then I started to get my breakfast. He just wanted to be held, just wanted cuddles... and I couldn't give him as much attention as he wanted, because I needed to get ready to go to work.

So, I had the bright idea: Mozart! That would help, certainly. And everyone knows that Mozart is good for cognitive development in babies! :) So I went over to the stereo and grabbed a CD of highlights from the Marriage of Figaro. And sure enough, the little boy calmed down some, and started listening to the music.

And so did I.

Now, I have a difficult time just letting music play in the background. I tend to be much more of an active listener, trying to figure out chord progressions, trying to figure out what makes a certain piece of music work in a certain way, and so forth. When I listen to music--especially Great music, the stuff that becomes classics--I tend to push everything else out of my mind and listen. And if I happen to have the sheet music on hand, I get very tempted to pull it out and read along--out loud, if it's vocal music. Of course, this makes it hard to get anything done, and it can annoy the neighbors....

Well, it just so happens that during my Opera days I had as a textbook a collection of Bass arias. This collection had four arias in it from the Marriage of Figaro. So I succumbed to temptation and pulled out the book, and started reading along.

By this point the novelty of the music had worn off for the not-as-Happy-as-usual Boy, and he wanted more attention. So what did I do? Well, the CD had just started up an aria that I had actually studied, so I sang it directly to the kid, accompanied by the CD.

And the boy loved it! He smiled, and giggled, and drooled (nothing new there), and wiggled with that whole-body happy-baby response that only comes from fully contented babies. Oh yeah, I am Daddy. I'm good--really good.

And then I realized just what I was doing: I was singing Figaro's aria "Non piĆ¹ andrai" to my own beloved kid.

Oh, the irony.

Now, for those of you who know the opera (Hi Mom! Hi Dad!), you probably already get the humor of what I just did. For those of you who aren't so well versed in this greatest of art forms, this Gesamtkunstwerk, here's a little background.

In the opera, there is an adolescent boy named Cherubino (literally, "Little Cherub" or "Little Angel") who has been hit by puberty really, really hard, and is madly in love with every woman in the castle--especially the Countess. The Count is not amused. He has decided to get rid of the young boy by getting him drafted into the army. The lovesick young lad is devastated that he is being removed from the object(s) of his desire(s), and is more than a little scared of heading off to war. The character Figaro--valet of the Count, town gossip, and all-around-mischievous schemer, is gently mocking Cherubino and the mess that he finds himself in, and lays it on pretty thick....

Here's a brief translation of the lyrics. As you read this, picture me as Figaro, and my happy, flirty, giggly little boy, my very own Little Angel, as Cherubino:

No more will you flit about like an amorous butterfly
Night and day, disturbing the sleep of beautiful young ladies,
You little Narcissus, you Adonis of love!
You will no longer have these beautiful feathers,
That light and gallant hat,
That well-coifed head of hair, that brilliant air,
That blushing womanish color!
(You will be) Among soldiers, by Bacchus!
With a big mustache, a tight tunic, a gun on your shoulder, a sabre at your side,
With your neck straight, your face forward, with a great helmet or a great turban,
With much honor! But little cash.
And instead of the fandango, a march through the mud!*
Through mountains! Through valleys! In the snow! In the sun!
With the concert of blunderbusses, the bombardments, the cannons,
All together smiting your ears!
And then, of course, the ending that really needs no translation:

Cherubino, alla vittoria, alla gloria militar!
And my own Little Cherub was just grinning, and smiling, and laughing through it all, that I couldn't help but pinch his little cheek.

Well at any rate, I thought the scene was amusing. And if you're interested, here's a video clip of the aria, as sung by Jose van Dam**:

*Note, the word Fandango rhymes with the Italian term for mud, il fango.

**The part of Cherubino, although a male part, is generally played by women these days, because counter-tenors were, um... made, not born, and, um... they don't make them anymore.

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