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  • suzannenorquist

Opera From The Sidelines

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

I’ve been a soccer mom, a hockey mom, a scouting mom, and a band mom. When my daughter went to college, I turned into an opera mom. If we are at a restaurant together and you express any interest at all, I might pull out a video of her singing (like the one below).

I’ve only made it incredibly awkward a few times. I try to gauge the interest of those around the table. Really, I do. But sometimes my enthusiasm inhibits my ability to judge the audience. I drove twelve hours to attend her first college opera, where I expected to find an auditorium full of community members.

Turns out most of the audience was other parents—just like elementary school soccer games. I saw those same parents again and again over her four years in college. One of the moms admitted she had trouble staying awake for the entire opera. The challenge is real, but you didn’t hear it from me.

Instead of providing orange slices and Capri Sun packets, I made music note shaped sugar cookies. Families provided refreshments for junior and senior recitals. She created a Recital Food Pinterest board to help with this task.

I’d never seen an opera before her first performance. Not one. It was Mozart’s Magic Flute with a Star Wars theme. What an initiation. In her small role of Papagena, she and her counterpart were dressed like Jar Jar Binks. At least they gave her a cute dress. At one point, a robotic R2D2 rolled across the stage.

The singing was in German, and a screen above the stage showed sub-titles. Who would imagine needing sub-titles for their own kid’s performance? And I’d never seen them before at a live event.

Since then, I’ve seen other shows, like a re-invented Messiah performance where trash can lids were used as part of the orchestra. In that show, her soprano notes summoned a bat from the belfry. It swooped overhead, dive-bombing the performers. She just kept singing while someone coaxed it outside.

She met and married another opera singer, so now I get a double dose. Here’s a video of her husband, Ryan Daly, singing.

During their wedding, the pastor said they met at “opera camp.” I doubt the organizers of the Young Artist Program would appreciate that description, but all us soccer moms get it.

I had to help my son-in-law find Aqua Net hairspray for a performance. Remember Aqua Net? We used it to create big helmet hair in the 1980s. I didn’t know they still made it.

While sitting on the sidelines, I’ve learned important terminology, like aria and mezzo-soprano, and I know the difference between a lyric soprano and a coloratura soprano. I’m still not sure about solfège.

I’ve even eaten at an opera restaurant, where the waitstaff are all opera singers, and someone performs every fifteen or twenty minutes. It’s called the Victor Café. Stop by if you’re ever in Philadelphia and want to experience authentic Italian food with unique entertainment.

My opera mom experience has qualified me to offer an abundance of unsolicited advice. No matter that I’m just now learning to read music, and they are adult professionals (as in people pay them to sing).

I still make the occasional music note shaped cookie. Someday I’ll display her performance CDs and photos next to the soccer trophies and the scouting handbook. They are my memories too.

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