Opera ? what a wonderful gift to give

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 29, 2001

A recent conversation turned to the upcoming Natchez Opera Festival and to the main events of the May musical series.

Notice of &uot;Carmen&uot; on the schedule reminded a young woman of a preview she had seen on one of those television stations young folks like to watch.

The station, it seems, will be airing a &uot;hip-hop&uot; version of the grand and exotic Bizet opera. &uot;At least they’re trying to teach young people something about opera,&uot; the young woman said.

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Well, maybe. What would be wrong, I wondered aloud, with airing a fine performance of the real thing, rather than a dumbed-down version of &uot;Carmen&uot;?

Barbara Tuchman, the great 20th-century writer and thinker, would have words to address the question.

From the 1960s, her thoughts continue to ring true when societal queries surface.

&uot;Everyone is afraid to call anything wrong, or vulgar, or fraudulent, or just bad taste or bad manners … we tend to shy away from all judgments,&uot; Tuchman said in opposition to many of her scholarly friends of the period who proclaimed no need for a general standard of taste but instead a free-for-all, anything-goes philosophy.

Perhaps I shouldn’t prejudge the hip-hop &uot;Carmen.&uot; Maybe it will become a classic in its own right. I remember in the 1960s seeing a wonderful show that was a spoof on the revered Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald. Maybe some of their fans didn’t find it clever.

I guess the point is that here in Natchez now and in the coming weeks are numerous opportunities to expose our young people to the real thing, to beautiful and even wondrous musical programs and talents.

The young artists who will perform during the Natchez Opera Festival come from all over the United States.

Most of them now live in New York City, it is true, because that is one of the best places for them to pursue their careers in their chosen fields.

However, they grew up in Missouri, Illinois, California, Louisiana, New Jersey, Texas, Massachusetts and elsewhere.

They are ordinary young people with extraordinary talents and perseverance – both characteristics necessary to make it in the opera world.

These young people are among the best of their generation, having studied and trained for years to hone their vocal talents.

Opera is the ultimate for a singer, requiring an athleticism of the voice that most of the other types of musical performance do not demand. And they love to perform.

It is true that the wonderful educational program outlined for the month of May will take opera skits and singing into schools throughout the area. So we know many children, in fact, literally thousands of children will meet some of the fine young performers.

However, nothing could leave so lasting effect on a young person as to attend a main event at the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center, with all the grand sounds of the orchestra, the visual feast of colorful sets, the auditorium filled with people abuzz about the opera.

What a gift it would be to a young person to offer him or her the opportunity to experience a night at the opera.

How uplifting it would be for the adult who is generous and gracious enough to offer the gift.

Tickets are available at the Visitors Reception Center on Canal Street or by calling 446-6345.

Joan Gandy is special projects director at The Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3549 or by e-mail at joan.gandy-@natchezdemocrat.com.