Sunday, 2 February 2014

Evening at the Opera with Dad


My father was an Opera lover and there were not many days when he did not listen to Opera as I recall growing up in our suburban Long Island home.  The memories I have of sitting on the sea green carpet of our living room floor many a Tuesday night with my twin brother, as we played chess and chatted with our dad are some of my dearest recollections of my father.  WMNR radio in Connecticutt transmitted a program called, "Evening at the Opera" hosted by Doug Fox.  The program is still part of WMNR's radio line up today and still hosted by Mr. Fox and runs from 8 pm until midnight on Tuesday nights.  Tuesday was a particularly convienant time for my dad who had his only day off from work on Wednesdays.  During the school year I'm not sure how late we were allowed to stay up with dad listening to Opera and playing chess, but during the Summer and during school breaks, staying up a bit later than normal and spending some time with dad was something I always looked forward to.  My brother and I were music lovers ourselves, and our entire family has always valued music in our lives even if we were not Opera lovers per se.  I know that listening to Opera with dad definitely gave me an appreciation for the art form that I would otherwise have never had. 

My dad took my brother Clifford and I to the only live Opera that I believe either of us has ever been to.  It was an experience I will never forget.  While I spent the better part of the first 25 years of my life on Long Island, our family did not often take trips into New York City.  On our trip dad took us to the top of the twin towers (an experience I am particularly grateful to have had retrospective of the events in September of 2001) and brought us to see a German Opera at Lincoln Center.  I wish that I could remember the name of the Opera, and while I do not remember it, I do remember reading the translations of the German Opera and enjoying the story and the performance.  I also remember feeling a bit special experiencing a small foray into a world of culture and opulence which I had not experienced often given our middle class roots.  As with all my experiences listening to Opera though, the very best part was spending time with Dad.

The New York City Opera where my father took Clifford and I to see a German Opera

My father was an unfailing kind, patient and mild mannered person, three traits that I always admired in him and yes, perhaps even revered him for.  Clifford and I would often pester my dad with questions about the Opera singers, asking him about who his favorites were and who Granddad's favorites were.  The thing that was the coolest though to me as a young boy and even as an adolescent was when Doug Fox would have his Opera trivia questions and my dad would give his answers.  Many times the questions revolved around identifying a voice and I admired my father's ability and expertise to discern the correct Opera singer a vast majority of the time.  Even better were the few occasions when he called into the station to Doug Fox and identified the singer, or made a particular request.  It's funny how as a child, just hearing your dad's name on the radio makes him seem bigger... almost King-like in a way.  Those evenings at the Opera were special and something I miss dearly to this day.

My father passed away in 2005 and while my twin brother and I had not spent any time in several years sitting with dad and listening to Opera with him as we played chess, when I think of him, those nights are some of my most prescient and treasured memories.  Upon dad's passing my mother asked us all if there was anything we had wanted to take from our father's possessions, as decisions needed to be made about things that had to be thrown away or things we might keep and remember him by.  One thing that I asked for and no one else seemed to have a deep interest in taking with them was my dad's collection of audio tapes.   Dad would often times record episodes of evening at the Opera, so that he could listen to them again.  I had this collection of tapes from my dad since 2005 but had never listened to them since then.  This past Christmas I decided to ask for a tape player for Christmas.  My mom who is an infamously giving person all year round, but especially at Christmas time, indulged me in that request and bought me a radio/cd/tape player --- the first I've owned since I was in college in the late 1990s.

While I've already used the radio and cd player extensively, tonight for the first time since Christmas I decided to pop some of dad's old tapes in.  I just grabbed one, which happens to be a tape of Doug Fox's program one Tuesday evening in 1991 featuring performances by Maria Callas.  The dulcet tones of Doug Fox announcing and Maria Callas' extremely beautiful and amazing voice brought back the emotion, feeling and mood of what was a lost time to me: those nights spent with dad listening to Evening at the Opera.  I don't know that I'll experience this everytime I listen to dad's old tapes but for at least tonight it was a gift of time, a gift of love, and the gift of my father and my mother that I will not forget.

1 comment:

  1. Jonny this is a really sweet post. I'm glad that you have many fond memories of your father. I like how music can bring back fond memories.


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