A Night At The Ohana Opera
Wednesday - February 20, 2008
I’m not really an opera kind of guy. I’m a movie kind of guy. A University of Hawaii basketball kind of guy. A good book kind of guy. And I’ve never met a schmaltzy American musical comedy I didn’t like.
But I’m not really an opera kind of guy.
Oh, I’ve attended an opera - one, I think, more than 40 years ago in Vienna. I was spending an undergraduate year overseas; my German teacher said, “You go to Vienna, you go to the opera.”
So I went to the opera. Nice opera house. Lots of gold trim. But I obviously didn’t much like it. I haven’t been to an opera since.
But I’m going Feb. 29.
“Why?” you ask. “Feelin’ your mortality, old boy? Checkin’ out a few of those things that maybe you passed up before you check out yourself?”
No. No. Nothing like that. It’s got everything to do with Adam Flower, my calabash nephew.
Four years ago Adam married my calabash niece, Nicole. She was a cutie (still is); he was a handsome dude; and they both sang. They sang opera stuff.
None of this bothered me until Aunty Jane’s Christmas party. As my 11 regular readers know, every Christmas the Hoolauae Street gang gathers at Aunty Jane’s to eat too much, drink too much and sing too many Christmas carols.
Now, I’m not a very good singer. But I like to sing - and I’m loud. Volume is my only virtue as a singer. Come to think of it, as a professor, loudness is my forte. I may not be brilliant, learned or wise but, by golly, I can be heard.
So one Christmas a few years ago, this Flowers kid shows up at the Christmas party. Nice kid. Sociable. Good politics ... a liberal. I like that.
But after dinner we sing, and the kid drowns me out. He’s louder than I. Plus, oh, horror of horrors, he can carry a tune. He can riff. He can do things in those higher registers about which I can only dream.
I was hurt. I was humiliated. I found myself edging away from the piano, gulping - rather than sipping - my cocktail as I went.
But then Aunty Jane turned the page in her song book; the next one was Christmas in Killarney.
You know it: “The holly green, the ivy green/The prettiest picture you’ve ever seen/Is Christmas in Killarney/With all of the folks at home.
“It’s nice, you know, to kiss your beau/While cuddling under the mistletoe/And Santa Claus you know, of course/Is one of the boys from home.
“The door is always open/The neighbors pay a call/And father John before he’s gone/Will bless the house and all.
“Our hearts are light, our spirits bright/We’ll celebrate our joy tonight/Is Christmas in Killarney/With all of the folks at home.”
Ah, I tell you. It tickles the Irish in my DNA. I love the song, and so did this young man Flowers - his volume was sufficient to cover up the seven or eight times I drifted off key in the course of the ditty. So we sang it again. And I’d of done it a couple of more times, save that our small audience was looking at us funny.
Since that night, the highest point of my Christmas season is singing Christmas in Killarney, very loud, sometimes drunkenly, with young man Flowers.
So I’ll be in the audience February 29 watching Adam in the role of Tybalt in HOT’s production of Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, that classic tale of two star-crossed lovers and their warring families.
“I kill Mercutio, Juliet’s cousin and Romeo’s friend,” says Adam. “Romeo kills me.”
What does he like best about the part? “I love dying on stage,” he says.
Not as much as I love singing Christmas in Killarney somewhere near in tune with a trained opera singer.
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