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Who's Afraid of Opera?
March 22, 2006 6:30 PM   Subscribe

Panda's Thumb reports elementary music teacher Tresa Wagonner was put on paid administrative leave by the superintendent of schools in Bennett, Colorado. Her offense? Playing a 12-minute clip from the thirty-year-old children's series "Who's Afraid of Opera?" for her classroom. The series features legendary soprano Joan Sutherland and some cute little hand-puppets who alternate elementary explanations of the libretti with vocal performances of selections from the operas featured. Apparently, Ms. Wagonner's selected episode, Gounod’s Faust, angered fundamentalist Bennettians, already on the warpath over Waggoner's musical choices for last year's Christmas pageant.
posted by VMC (38 comments total)

 
Apparently we now know who is afraid of opera.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:47 PM on March 22, 2006


Once again confirming my prejudice that the Christian right is opposed to all that is good and human. Yeah. Fire a teacher because your country has a traditional separation of church and state that has allowed government and religion to prosper alongside one another for two hundred years.

I hope the fuckers that did this to this teacher (and their children) get fired from their jobs for no good reason.

Assholes.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:49 PM on March 22, 2006


Bennett sounds like a hateful little town. And it IS little- look up Bennett, CO on google maps. It's a dusty little speck miles from any other town. The residents there should be happy they have a decent music teacher with any sort of passion for her work.
I hope she finds work some place sane. Too bad about the kids, tho'.
posted by maryh at 6:50 PM on March 22, 2006


Oh yeah, the worst of it, it's a really good opera.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:50 PM on March 22, 2006


Imagine how parents would've reacted if she exposed the kids to scene 5 of Wozzeck.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:51 PM on March 22, 2006


Once again confirming my prejudice that the Christian right is opposed to all that is good and human.

What you're observing has little to do with Christianity or religion. It's an a la carte version of spirituality, which has more to do with team spirit and Jerzy Kosinski's "Painted Bird" than following the principles of someone who advocated mercy, redemption and selflessness. Accepting the trappings of a faith, while throwing aside the historic and cultural underpinnings leaves one with little more than a designer fad. The citizens of Bennett, in their hostility to anything beyond their perception of comfort, are consumate consumerists.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:59 PM on March 22, 2006


The residents there should be happy they have a decent music teacher with any sort of passion for her work.

They're probably relieved: music leads to dancin'.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:00 PM on March 22, 2006


"This is something that could happen anywhere, for crying out loud," said Caroline Nordyke, a Bennett real-estate broker.

Um, I don't think so Caroline.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:04 PM on March 22, 2006


Oh, don't worry smart dalek, I don't confuse the christian right with Christianity. There's really very little Christian about them.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:06 PM on March 22, 2006


The mayor's stepped down over the incident. Touching, but anyone who'd stand on her principles like this is both desperately needed in and completely wasted on this town.

What is it about religion that appears to turn some people into knuckle-dragging troglodytes?
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:08 PM on March 22, 2006


Fuck Texas Colorado
posted by melt away at 7:13 PM on March 22, 2006


Perhaps they thought it was this opera.
posted by missbossy at 7:13 PM on March 22, 2006


WTF Colorado . . . How much more of this culture war crap can we stomach before normal Americans stand up and say at long last, fundies, have you no decency?
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:33 PM on March 22, 2006


maryh, while I agree with your sentiment, your facts are clearly wrong. Bennett is about 30 miles or so from downtown Denver, hardly "miles from any town". Though the front range area of Colorado is trying to grow and sprawl like the El Lay basin, it has a ways to go yet. Bennett will in the not too distant future be a suburb of Denver, not unlike where you live in relation to downtown Los Angeles.
posted by Eekacat at 7:43 PM on March 22, 2006


Please note in the description of the town meeting, over 50 people turned out in support of Wagonner while 6 appeared opposing her. Despite this overwhelming show of support, the school superintendent is cravenly bending to the will of a loud and disruptive - but very small - group of people.

Furthermore, this group of people, in claiming that Faust is somehow about abortion - and being taken seriously - is beyond absurd. Lies are being given credence as facts in the name of God.

Well, of course, there is the history of organized religion right there in a nutshell.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:49 PM on March 22, 2006


The Mayor works here and the music teacher has two Xtian cd's released. This is a typical small town (wide streets=narrow minds) tempest in a teapot,with rural protestant,vs urban catholic shading.
posted by hortense at 7:55 PM on March 22, 2006


I don't know about the specifics of what happened in that class, but from what I remember of Faust, it is fairly inappropriate for 6, 7 and 8 year olds. Or at least, it can be. I don't know what the representation was like with the puppets. If my hypothetical 6 year old came home and told me they watched Faust at school, my immediate reaction would be anger. With something like that, I'd say leave it for older kids and parents introduce it to their own younger children when they think they're ready for it.
posted by loquax at 7:55 PM on March 22, 2006


loquax, would you hound the teacher into administrative leave for "not being Christian" and advocating homosexuality and abortion?
posted by brundlefly at 8:05 PM on March 22, 2006


Loquax, I've seen Faust, and ... are you being serious, or are you making some subtle joke? Because I have no idea what you're talking about in terms of it being inappropriate for youth.
posted by kyrademon at 8:12 PM on March 22, 2006


would you hound the teacher into administrative leave for "not being Christian" and advocating homosexuality and abortion?

Of course not, but I might not have a problem supporting leave or discipline depending on the facts. Teachers are supposed to keep the ages of the students in mind when presenting material. Should 6 year olds watch Schindler's List, or A Clockwork Orange?

If the teacher had shown something totally innocuous (like, say, sesame street) that was being bizarrely interpreted as "anti-christian", I can understand the response. But she showed little kids Faust. It really does leave her open to a lot of criticism and makes the job of the zealots a lot easier. Again, depending on what exactly the kids saw on that tape, I say bad judgement on her part, first and foremost.

Because I have no idea what you're talking about in terms of it being inappropriate for youth.

Seriously? A 6 year old? Watching Faust? With the Devil and the demons and the killing and all that? It's not exactly the smurfs. Either you forget the opera or you forget what it's like to be 6 and be afraid of the dark and what was under the bed.
posted by loquax at 8:19 PM on March 22, 2006


Eh. Wouldn't have bothered me. Especially in a 12-minute summary performed by hand puppets.

Ironically, Faust is pretty much entirely a work about Christian morality and themes.
posted by kyrademon at 8:25 PM on March 22, 2006


loquax,
She didn't show them all of Faust. It was 12 minutes worth of this.

The editorial description claims "World famous Joan Sutherland and her three delightful puppet friends bring to life two great operas - Faust and Rigoletto in a special way that the whole family is sure to enjoy." [my emphasis]

Exactly how inappropriate can this be? The inclusion of puppets should be enough to let you know that the video was created with young children in mind.
posted by Silki at 8:30 PM on March 22, 2006


kyrademon: Oh I agree. My kid would watch it (maybe not at 6, but not too much later, forget the stupid puppets). I just wouldn't want my kid's teacher to push the envelope at that age. I wouldn't want my 6 year old to be shown The Ten Commandments either, for that matter. Lots of snakes and blood and stuff in that too.

She didn't show them all of Faust. It was 12 minutes worth of this.

Yeah, I know, that's why I said my reaction would depend on the facts. Seems like it was made for kids, and maybe it was totally innocent, although I can't quite understand how the deal with the devil gets across with puppets. Still, having not seen the puppet version of it, if my kid came home and said they saw Faust, puppets or no, I'd be mad at first blush, and that's probably not a reaction you want to inspire in parents of really young kids.
posted by loquax at 8:37 PM on March 22, 2006


I support this. Boitos Mefistofele is far superior.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:50 PM on March 22, 2006


Whoops, my bad, Eekacat. I obviously didn't pull out far enough on the Google map. But still- call me an out of touch city slicker, but while this may some day be part of the suburban sprawl, right now it looks awfully isolated. And judging by the townsfolk's reaction to that new subdivision, that's the way they like it.

(btw, all of LA is sprawl. "Downtown Los Angeles" just another neighborhood.)
posted by maryh at 9:12 PM on March 22, 2006


Give. Me. A. Freakin'. Break.

Seriously.

Fired? For showing an opera?

Where's my smite button?
posted by geekhorde at 9:37 PM on March 22, 2006


"We can't have kids thinking it's okay to go around hollering. And it must be obscene or they wouldn't sing it in a foreign language."

--Dogbert
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:23 PM on March 22, 2006


I don't own this video, but Waggoner checked it out of her own school's library. It was plainly intended to teach children about opera. Puppets? Opera? Yeah, it was the kiddie version, folks.

In a nod to the saner neighborhoods of Bennett, pointed out by Joey Michaels, a big majority showed in support of their poor music teacher. Let's hope they go the distance and toss the school board, ala Dover, PA, next election.
posted by VMC at 10:37 PM on March 22, 2006


Seriously? A 6 year old? Watching Faust? With the Devil and the demons and the killing and all that?

And yet they can go the Church on a Sunday morning?
posted by twistedonion at 2:05 AM on March 23, 2006


Like I said, maryh, I agreed with what you were saying. Bennett was isolated from the big cow-town of Denver, but with a major freeway, and people with money wanting privacy and isolation, it is developing into a suburb (the Mayor(former?) commutes to Regis University in Denver). This is an example of the interesting dichotomy of such a town as it experiences it's growing pains while it gets absorbed into the mainstream. The same kinds of issues that Denver went through in the last 20 years as all of us Californians moved here and ruined the place.
posted by Eekacat at 2:21 AM on March 23, 2006


Maybe she should have started small, say with that cartoon that we all learnt opera from; What's Opera Doc? Nobody doesn't like Bugs and Elmer.
posted by Gungho at 4:17 AM on March 23, 2006


Faust is the perfect opera for little kids! There's no blood in it. Jeez. The only lesson in Faust is 'don't pray to the devil.' Of course, an argument could be made that kids will emulate the stuff they see the good doctor doing, and that, of course, could lead to demonic possession and then we'd have to hang the music teacher for a witch.

Seriously, she could have shown Turendot or Salome - then we'd have the cute girls in the class running about, lopping the boys' heads off.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:26 AM on March 23, 2006


Maybe she should have started small, say with that cartoon that we all learnt opera from; What's Opera Doc? Nobody doesn't like Bugs and Elmer.

Doesn't that 'toon feature Bugs in full drag, with boobs and blonde pigtails? Can't imagine that going over well with these nutters.
posted by zarah at 7:47 AM on March 23, 2006


It should be mentioned that the teacher got the video out of her school library.
posted by kozad at 7:50 AM on March 23, 2006


I can't be the only one who, upon reading the headline, thought this was going to be about the browser.
posted by etoile at 10:46 AM on March 23, 2006


This makes me too depressed to even feel worse than I already do. loquax you're arguments are entirely unconvincing.
posted by OmieWise at 10:56 AM on March 23, 2006


loquax you're arguments are entirely unconvincing.

My arguments? That I wouldn't want my 6-year-old to see Faust without my permission? I'm not trying to convince you to agree. As the article states:

Many parents agreed the video's violent moments and depictions of the devil were inappropriate for young elementary school students, she said. After receiving assurances that a similar situation wouldn't happen again, most were satisfied.

I would be in that camp, not the zealot camp.
posted by loquax at 11:12 AM on March 23, 2006


I don't want my kids to watch Donald Duck in Mathamagic Land in school because I think they're still not ready to be initiated into the Pythagorian mysteries, and that's a parent's decision, not the school board's.

(Yes, loquax, you are a good person for wondering what your kid is watching, etc. But public schools are funded equally by parents and non-parents alike, and I'd like to vote that my taxes go towards buying students copies of The Invisibles, because I want the schmuck taking care of me in the old folk's home [or, alternatively, gunning me down once I turn 30, or turning me into Soylent Green] to be a really weird fucker.)
posted by Coda at 6:35 PM on March 23, 2006


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