May morning after rain

May morning after rain

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Opera: A Training Ground for Life Skills

Once upon a time, I was in an opera. One husband, two kids, two granddaughters, one Central Kansas farm and 36 years later, it may seem the stuff from which fairytales are made.

During my senior year at Kansas State, I was Miss Pinkerton in Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Old Maid and the Thief." I was a home economics and mass communications major, so it was a bit unusual for me to land a role in the opera. But I did take private voice lessons and used music courses to satisfy some of my humanities requirements for my degree.
Memorabilia from my opera experiences in 1979.
I still think my opera gig and our week-long tour to Western Kansas was one reason my Food Science professor wouldn't raise my grade a few tenths of a fraction to an "A." She said she didn't think I was fully committed to my major - even though I'd spent much of the prior year as chairman of the College of Home Economics' Hospitality Day (the old terminology for open house)

Hmmm ... I wonder if I'm still bitter about that B+ and her remarks about my commitment. But, in the long run, being part of the opera and the opera tour provided more life experiences than a "A" in Food Science. And, for the record, no employer has ever asked me for my grade card (though this Type A overachiever would have been more than happy to share it).

The opera memories came rushing back over the weekend as I watched our niece, Madison, in "Hansel and Gretel." She was the Gingerbread Witch. Madi, like me, got a fun "character" role. I was a frazzled, easily agitated busybody. Madison was a manipulative, expressive witch with a "taste" for lost children. Madi, a vocal performance major, is much more talented than I ever was. And she doesn't get as nervous - or maybe she's better at hiding it than me.
Madison is on the far right. Photo found on Facebook.
I still have memorabilia from the opera, but I don't have any photos of myself as Miss Pinkerton. There wasn't a cell phone in every pocket back in 1979.

I do have my directions for applying my extensive makeup and a photo from a Collegian advertisement - just in case I'm ever in the mood to become Miss Pinkerton for the day. I wouldn't have to draw on so many wrinkles or apply so much shading these days!

The memorabilia collage I made 36 years ago still hangs in our home office, but I hadn't really looked at it for years. It's been fun to reminisce by reading the reviews and remembering the friends and fellow cast mates who sent me flowers or well wishes via the Collegian personal ads. My opera score is marked with stage directions and notes about diction and phrasing.
That B+ in Food Science pales in comparison to the opera experience. I would always have more chances to study and learn. I still do that every day.

But being in the opera was a little like learning to work in the real world outside academia. I relied on other people to show up and be engaged, and they relied on me. I learned to juggle extra practices and obligations on top of an already-crowded schedule. I learned about dealing with different personalities and egos in pressure-packed situations, including my own. I learned teamwork and working toward a common goal. I was able to use God-given gifts in a fun and productive way.

And isn't that what life should be about?


  1. Yep! Grades don't always reflect learning. I wish you had a picture of your costume. Your nieces costume is amazing!!

    1. I wish I did, too. Yes, we thought it was neat that they didn't just stick her in a black witch's outfit.