I’m a mother. Of two grown children. And although I work consciously to keep that part of my identity separate from my work, there is the inevitable overlap.
I unfortunately have little patience for educators/administrators/mentors who take their roles to a maternal (or paternal) extreme, treating students and other younger people on their watch as they would children. Descriptive copy about the WTOC and my role often includes the “nurture” word, and although it’s strictly true, it makes me a little queasy. What we do, when we are at our best, is create environments in which people can flourish. It’s less about tending to them than it is about managing the noise around them.
Nevertheless, the mother in me comes screaming out with every new opera we undertake. Each one starts from just a glimmer and then rushes headlong from infancy to independence. And when it takes the stage, completely full-grown and out of my hands, I allow myself probably too much parental pride. It’s mixed in with full knowledge of the unfinished business, warts, and other imperfections that are always part of art and part of life. But the pride is born of seeing how far we can go in a short time, and how we can all make an amazing whole that is so much bigger that the sum of our individual parts.
My two first children of summer 2010 couldn’t have been more dissimilar. And as parents will tell you (and it’s true, but hard to believe), I loved them absolutely equally.
Zaide was the dark, complicated child. Brooding, intellectual, troubled, but not without hope and humor. She won the imaginations of many and troubled the hearts of a few. Her focus was a bit more honed than her brother’s, as her singers were fewer in number (9), and I was far less distracted during her development. (Isn’t it always that way with the first child?) She was a rebel, but her intentions were so clear and her motivations so laudable that it was easy to forgive her anything. I was proud of her unswerving nature and her belief in the universality of love and the power of music.
Turco was the sunny middle child. Dressed in bright primary colors and always looking for new ways to please. Full of incredibly endless energy, always with a new silly joke to tell. Far busier than his sister, with 19 singers on his stage, he often left me breathless. He didn’t get as much single-minded devotion, as other demands competed for my attention as he was coming into focus. But he didn’t seem to mind, taking wings as effortlessly as anyone could imagine. People sometimes thought he wasn’t serious enough, but I adored how he could take our troubles away every time he was in the room.
The third child has yet to be born, but the due date is upon us, and we’ll learn more about him or her quite soon. I have a feeling s/he will be a marvelous mixture of the first two.
The analogy may already be tired, but I’ll take it one more step, offering up these images of Zaide and Turco – for no mother worth her salt passes up an opportunity to show off some photos.
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