Thursday, 19 August 2010

Kids at the Opera Bayreuth

At Bayreuth this weekend there'll be a special opera movie screened specially for kids. Tannhäuser. Tannhäuser? How to explain Venusberg, and the hero's hots for Venus? Or the pilgrims, guilt and "pure" love for that matter, even to German kids who are more into Bildung than most.

On the other hand, why not? I don't believe opera needs to be taken literally. Kids may not understand everything, but they're smart enough to relate to things on their own terms. That's how the world around appears to them all the time. For most it will just be good guys, bad guys. Though secretly I thought Venusberg sounded more fun.

Kids, or adults for that matter, don't need to feel pressured into understanding everything at once. There's a point at which explaining things veers into telling people "what" to think. Even kids of 9 or 10 can get indoctrinated, so it's a real issue. People used to learn to swim by being thrown in the deep end. Some drowned. But on the other hand, awareness and sensitivity, like swimming, are possibly innate.

Learning to listen, I think, is part of being a whole human being. It's not really so much about learning form as about being open to  feelings and experiences. Kids are often more emotionally literate than adults because they haven't learned what they are "supposed" to think.  Ironically "listening like a child" is much more difficult than people assume  Child-ish and Child-like are completely different concepts. Many adults are more child-ish than children. "Suffer the little children" said Jesus, "Don't stop them coming to me, for theirs is the the kingdom of heaven".

Once I was driving, listening to Die Walküre. Suddenly from the back seat, my kids started cooing with joy. "More! more!" they babbled after the Ride of the Valkyries. They didn't know about Brünnhilde charging through the skies. To them it was just good music.

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