Saturday, November 25, 2006

Washday factoid

The PBS show about Beverly Sills was a treat, and the most wonderful thing about it was the revelation (to me) that hers was the voice singing that radio jingle that never leaves the mental jukebox: "Rinso white! Rinso bright! Happy little washday song." So many of the Beverly Sills performances were on television when I was living in places with a television and where stations could be received. I suppose that a love of opera music is an acquired taste. Here's how I came by it: it was ironing music (Texaco radio broadcasts; I first loved the quizzes and interviews at intermissions, and also the narrations of the stories); themes from opera were often pieces in books of music given to piano students (fifty cents a lesson; music assigned by the teacher, HJR, to be bought at the music store); concerts of choral music, both as listener and participant, that included opera and operetta bits; student productions; UT Sunday-morning bus-rides to Houston and Dallas to hear matinee performances; the KMFA programs of vocal music that exist no more; cheap and free voice recitals (mostly of Lieder, but the singers are the same); and, of course, our own Austin Lyric Opera from the very beginning. Opera is a complete musical and theatrical experience, but it doesn't need to be elaborate, even so. Two of my favorite performances ever were The Barber of Seville, done at the old Capitol Playhouse to piano accompaniment (where Ruta Maya began and where Halcyon is now), and a Rigoletto done by a Houston Opera Studio touring company at the Paramount, where Erie Mills made everybody's hair stand on end when she sang Caro Nome.


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