Fish gotta swim, Bill, just sayin'

"That was not the Bill song I expected," said my opera buddy. We had in mind something on a sliding scale between Laura Nyro's composition, "Wedding Bell Blues," and Barbra Streisand singing "My Man".

5th Dimension ______________________________________Funny Girl

The Dallas Opera production of "Show Boat" is a visual feast with two musical themes that embed themselves in breath, muscle, and mind. Even more, the show pulls  uncomfortable moments of family history to the mental forefront for reconsideration.

When I began piano lessons in third grade, my dear dad Howie spewed out, "Darkies work on the Mississippi," which he must have learned in childhood in all-white Pierce, Nebraska. Age nine, I suddenly had to deal with a racist attitude on top of a foreign musical instrument for which I had seriously limited aptitude. The lyrics and the dark key image was indelibly etched.

Dad would need to travel a good 120 miles to even meet a person of color, but his aunt had gone all the way to Omaha and brought back prejudice. Her attitudes burrowed into the minds of her family and her elementary class students. Far more than that prejudice, my great aunt despised everything French, including the dashing skier Jean-Claude Killy in the 1968 Olympics.

My wise parents gave my permission to not like my great aunt because of  her bigotry. They provided the opportunities for me to learn our family history and the reasons behind my great aunt's attitudes. I could despise the opinion, and still grow to love the opinionated, yet generous and wise old lady.

And so, Morris Robinson's "Old Man River" is still sending shivers up my arm a day after the performance. Thanks, dear Muse, for a long run of challenging artistic experiences.

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder

No comments: