Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Princess And The Crazy Opera

Princess' 2nd grade class was involved this year in the Opera By Children program, where children write and perform their own 10-15 minute opera. The opera was performed last night, along with three other operas from another elementary school's third grade classes.

The opera her class wrote was entitled "The Princesses And The Crazy Spell" and, as you would expect from being written by second graders, had an extremely whimsical and semi-random fairy-tale-based plot. It involved princesses, witches, knights, and the other usual fairytale suspects, and also (inexplicably) a seaplane and a hedgehog. The hedgehog rescues the four princesses from the witches by crossing a shaky bridge over a river of boiling hot lava (hot lava being the children's iconic representation of something scary and impossible to wade in). I tried to describe the plot to someone, and he said it sounded like a "bad acid trip". I'd characterize it as more like a really wacky dream, one of those that puts together snippets of everything you've been thinking about for the last few days.

Princess was cast as one of the fairies, and I designed a lovely flower-fairy costume for her, with a petal skirt and hand-painted wings. Alas, I did not get it done. The Girl Scout cookie sale is winding to a close, and I am swamped with paperwork. And I also had that show, and Easter which came early this year, and Spring Break, and this all came on the heels of that Girl Scout thing where Princess performed the Tinikling dance. At the same time I've had tutoring clients three or four nights a week and I'm still working on that order of beaded centerpieces for my aunt, and trying to get my new product line ready for the summer... bottom line, I got the wings done, but I didn't get a chance to paint them, and I didn't get the dress even cut out. So we used an old dress that I'd made for my sister's wedding a while back, and it worked out fine. It was just as well, because if she'd had a costume like the one I'd been planning, she would have stuck out like a sore thumb against the other fairies, who were also wearing dresses with net wings.

Of the four operas, I liked Princess' opera the best, and I don't think that's just because I'm biased toward my own child. Two of the other three operas were about life at their own elementary school and were so full of allusions to their school that they were practically inaccessible to anyone who was not familiar with that school's policies or its blueprint. The other opera was also a king/knight/dragon/princess type fantasy, but everybody just stood in a line and sang, and you couldn't tell who was supposed to be a dragon rider and who was a mere peasant.

One of the school-oriented operas really irritated me-- the entire 15 minutes was about kids painfully rejecting each other on the playground and in the classroom, with the last three minutes in the classroom. Once in the classroom, the snottiness was finally mediated by a teacher who gave the bulliest two kids a "refocus" (evidently some sort of punishment specific to their school)-- not for bullying, but for lying about their bullying, while the rest of the kids who had been little snots behind the teacher's back got off scot-free. I am glad that Princess doesn't have to deal with that kind of nonsense at the charter school, where that kind of behavior is not tolerated from the very beginning and there is no need for euphemistically-named punishments.

I also noticed that the kids from Princess' school sang much better than the other kids. The charter school has a music program, and it shows. The kids from the other school chanted tunelessly, while the charter school students were actually singing, and you could make out a melody. I don't expect second and third graders to sing very well, but at least with the charter school students I could tell that there was a melody, and most of the time could even make out when it was increasing or decreasing in pitch.