Smelly Socks: Popcorn and Pasquale: A child's introduction to opera

By Anita Spisak
Dec. 13, 2012 at 6:13 a.m.

Anita and her son, Adam, at the opera.

Anita and her son, Adam, at the opera.

City Life

The words "Popcorn and Pasquale" jumped out at me as I was reading the Chicago Tribune two Sunday mornings ago. It was an "Introduction to Opera" for 5- to 12-year-old kids. The description on the back page of the Chicago Tribune read:

The host will lead us through selected songs and scenes from Lyric's mainstage production of Donizetti's comic gem, Don Pasquale - where two young people in love outsmart their crusty old uncle.

We'll watch a set change and find out how it is done.

Give the children in your life the opportunity to hear Lyric's celebrated orchestra and star singers, including Ildebrando D'Arcangelo and Marlis Petersen. Let them marvel at our gilded Art-Deco opera house. Let them see the fantastic scenery and costumes that have our adult audiences cheering, "Bravo!"

Oh my goodness, what an opportunity to introduce Adam to the opera. When I told him we were going, he asked, "What's the opera?" When I demonstrated, in my best operatic voice and strongest hand gestures he kind of rolled his eyes and said, "Um maybe you should take Charlie."

Not having girls, I try, sometimes with success, sometimes without, to introduce my boys to the more artistic things in life. I know that their main interests will always lie in fishing, hunting, sports, Legos and monster truck rallies (one of which I have, rather grudgingly, attended), but I like to think there is more to a boys' life than just those.

I love the ballet, the opera, the theatre, movies etc., and want to make sure Adam and Charlie at least get an introduction to them. They may not like them right away, but starting them early on any art, I believe, is never a bad thing.

That Sunday morning, Adam and I drove downtown to the beautifully preserved Art Deco Civic Opera House to see just a snippet of what the opera can offer. We took the Washington Avenue exit and drove straight through to Wacker Drive. Honestly, I think he was more impressed by the big buildings and the bridge over the Chicago River than he was with his first time at the opera.

We sat in the first balcony, and the children were allowed to eat popcorn during the performance, which of course he did. The opera lasted about 70 minutes during which time Adam squirmed, took a lot of deep breaths and couldn't decide if he could see better in his seat or on my lap. I think the most exciting part of the whole show (for all of the kids) was when two stage hands moved the scenery, which consisted of an enormous double staircase and balcony to make way for a garden scene.

I wouldn't say he was exactly cheering "Bravo," when the show ended, but when I asked him if he liked it he replied, a little too enthusiastically, "It was good!" Then I looked him in the eye and said, "What did you really think of it?" to which he shook his head from side to side and said "Mama, please don't be mad, but it was kind of boring."

Then, as we were driving home, I said to him, "You know, even though I know you didn't like it, I had a good time." He replied, "Me too, because I got to spend the day with my mama."

That was enough for me.

Anita lives in Chicagoland with her husband, two boys and two dogs one of which is a girl. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at



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