A Perfect Moment via “O Mio Babbino”

Friday night, just before 6:00pm, I was driving my son to the middle school he will be graduating from in a matter of days. Eighth grade dance night. He’s developing that closeness with his classmates, male and female alike, that I remember doing at the end of my own eighth grade year. In some ways, that golden, almost-summer, king-of-the-hill feeling at my school, coupled with budding other feelings, far exceeded anything socially or romantically I would experience for another three years. (The tragedy of the social disaster that comprised my high school years is best left undiscussed further. Call me a late bloomer and we’ll leave it at that.)

It was a particularly lovely evening, trees in full, green, leafy bloom, sun still high in the sky as though it were afternoon. It felt odd, driving along close to 6pm, this brilliant gold sun shining down during a time of the early evening where I expect the scenery to be obscured by shadows, the way it is the other 10 months of the year, here in the San Lorenzo Valley. It’s that “summertime” feeling, no doubt. And who doesn’t remember the golden feeling that came over you, maybe around age fourteen, maybe later/earlier, of taking that next step into young adulthood, via a dance, a romance, an adventure?

My son was sitting next to me in the car. He was pumped; you could tell. Although he wore the same jeans and tee-shirt as he might for school, he’d showered. He’d put on cologne. He was Ready for Anything. He was scrolling through his music on his iPod that was connected up to the car stereo. Such an important journey, that drive to the big Eighth Grade Dance, deserved only the best of music. Now, a few things. He is not a Classical Boy, much to my sorrow. He does enjoy listening to work by classically-trained contemporary musicians who compose background music for those utterly violent PC/X-Box games that his friends are allowed to own and he is not. The music, in truth, is quite good. (Ex: Hans Zimmer, Sean Murray, Michiru Yamane.) If I can’t have a son who listens to classical, I have to say, we have found a happy medium. And I, too, have stretched my tastes, and will now listen to pop, rap (you know, Eminem is really poetic and worth listening to) and some hilarious parodies that he’s found that are better than their originals. I like the raw, crass energy of much of the music he enjoys. I like liking what he does. It’s another way to bond. It’s nice.

So. Big night. There’s my son picking and rejecting tunes from his iTunes playlist. He does that channel-surfing kind of thing so that the piece of music perfectly reflects his mood. Tonight is particularly important, getting just that right feeling. A few boom-boomy songs. A parody song we both laugh at. And then, up pops “O Mio Babbino Caro,” new to his playlist last week. I don’t know how he got that into the mix. I only knew that it was a song I’ve always loved. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a well-known Puccini aria from his opera, Gianni Schicchi. It was the opening music for the Merchant-Ivory film,  A Room With a View, decades ago. (Didn’t see the movie? Go see it. I’m afraid I must insist.) Since it was just before a teen dance and he isn’t a classical music kid, I thought he was going to scroll right past it and put on something more pop-music or teen oriented. Nope. He kept it there.

The song came to its hauntingly beautiful conclusion. Regretfully. But that’s how it goes. Perfect happiness is so fleeting, like a butterfly landing on your shoulder, and you know there’s no point in trying to keep it there longer than it wants to stay. The song was over. But to my surprise, my son reached over to the control panel and pressed “repeat.”

More Perfect.

Here’s a recording you must listen to. It’s a nine-year-old girl performing in a local singing contest in 2009. She’s heartbreakingly sweet to look at, and sings like an angel. Her performance lacks professional polish, and thank God for that. She’s got a nine-year-old’s set of lungs, not a seasoned professional’s. Her voice wobbles in the wrong way sometimes, and she doesn’t know what to do with her hands. But she’s all heart, she’s got perfect intuition on how to sing it, on the composer’s intention, and there is something so clenching-of-your-throat beautiful about this version.

The young singer’s name is Jackie Evancho, which meant nothing to me, until I Googled her afterward and discovered, to my chagrin, that she is quite famous and mainstream now, courtesy of a near-win in 2010 on America’s Got Talent. The whole world knows about her now. She’s thirteen now. Beautiful as a model, an actress, a professional. Oh, wait. She is those things now. I didn’t look at any of the other performance links, the glossy publicity photos of her, the press, her upcoming performances (Las Vegas!). I just want to remember her as that sweetly nervous nine-year-old girl in a sundress and plastic sandals, singing her heart out. I want to stay there, because it’s so similar to that lovely, golden place, of driving my fourteen-year-old son to his eighth grade dance, both of us so happy with anticipation over the good time he would have (and miraculously, nothing got sabotaged, ruined, like it tends to do with middle-schoolers, and he did have that dreamed-of good time).

“O Mio Babbino Caro” has just gotten one step more beloved in my mind.

11 thoughts on “A Perfect Moment via “O Mio Babbino””

  1. Rachael, my son would be furious with me if he knew how I elaborated on the evening. When I asked him how to spell the name of the Japanese composer he liked, he told me, hesitated, and said, “You are NOT mentioning me by name, right?” I assured him no, and that my blog identity is anonymous(ish.) Good thing he didn’t read the whole blog; he would have had a coronary. Ah, the self-consciousness of adolescence…

    I haven’t been able to get that song out of my head since coming up with this blog idea yesterday morning. Nice song to get stuck in the head, at least! : )

    Thanks for stopping by to comment!

  2. So beautiful! I love it when music so perfectly matches the moment.

    And do you believe it…the blog post came through to my email this time! Bad, bad server (at my end, LOL).

  3. Yay, Tara, your server now likes The Classical Girl! 🙂

    And I’m glad you liked the post/music. Can’t get that aria out of my head now, but I ain’t complaining!

  4. Sounds like a moment to remember. Enjoy…just like now as I was listening and L is snuggled up in my lap, knowing that we won’t be able to do this forever – she is getting big. She asked me to play it again and keep snuggling. 🙂

  5. Terez – just read this, and love that we both have a thing for O Mio Babbino Caro. You may since then have heard of Amira Willihaghen from The Netherlands, an enchanting girl even more gifted than Jackie. Check out this clip from Holland’s Got Talent, sure to make you smile, laugh, perhaps cry. The other videos chronical her remaining competition efforts plus other activities of the last year. She’s phenomenal, my feel good go to girl.

    • … Kleenex, please.

      (Classical Girl’s way of saying, “dang. Just… dang” to that YouTube clip, Annette. Am bookmarking that one. Incredible (except that I didn’t like her choice of final notes, an octave high, but it was a very sweet, girlish attempt at theatricality, so maybe that made her seem even more genuine).)


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