The recent challenge in Colorado to a video introducing Gounod's Faust (featuring Joan Sutherland and puppets) and our upcoming article by Vicky Smith regarding adaptations of Shakespeare both came to mind last Saturday morning. Richard generally keeps the radio going nonstop in the kitchen, always tuned to WCRB, Boston's classical station. And when, back from walking the dog, I'm in there making coffee, this infernal children's classical music program comes on. You know the kind--lots of music imitating animals, and an announcer with one of those 'storytelling' voices, breathless with barely suppressed--albeit totally manufactured--excitement. It makes me want to hurl. The radio.
But how do we bring kids to the classics, musical, literary, or visual? The tendency seems to be to reach down--witness all the art history books that ask kids to "find the dog" or "count the flowers" in a painting. Might it be better to encourage kids to reach up? In some way, this is a continuation of my rant about our field's prejudice against young people reading adult books.
As Vicky says in her article, do middle-graders need Shakespeare? I guess I feel the same way about Faust --making it allegedly "kid-friendly" can only dilute the qualities that lead us to want to expose children to it in the first place. But that said, I hasten to add that those who accused the Colorado teacher of using Faust to promote Satanism are too stupid to be allowed near children, opera, or any task involving opposable thumbs.