Imagine a singing chair, a singing fire, a singing teapot. All three are being built in my house in La Cañada for the staging of a rarely performed opera by Maurice Ravel, the French composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries whose name until the last few weeks always made me think of his maddeningly addictive “Bolero.”
There’s a reason why some works are rarely performed: No one liked them enough when they were performed, and I wonder if the tide of huge saucers, flame-red dresses and dragonfly wings that has flowed implacably from the living room to the dining room and now the kitchen is worth it, especially as I have been largely locked up in my bedroom, out of which I dodge to snatch something to eat from the refrigerator and then dart out of sight again.
The culprit is my wife, Maggie, the resident costumer for the innovative Pacific Opera Project (pacificoperaproject.com) plus three hard-working and dedicated part-time volunteers who come whenever they can. Of course. Who but a wife could so sweetly render living conditions unlivable yet make you feel like a churl for not being grateful to be participating, even marginally, in a striking musical event?
There’s also the difficulty of finding an armchair that not only sings but also looks and acts at the standards required by the entertainment capital of the world. Ditto a fire. But the story demands it, an engaging one-act opera, called “L’enfant et les Sortilèges,” about a child for whom all these dreams come true.
As sewing machines that began to whir in the early morning are still at it in the small hours of the following day, however, a grudging admiration grows inside me for a company that chooses such a challenging task while having enough self-mockery to take the starch out of a medium almost synonymous with self-importance.
Double-billed with Puccini’s one-act comic opera, “Gianni Schicchi,” at Occidental College for only three performances, starting Saturday, Jan. 25 the run will be over almost before it begins. Then the wings will stop fluttering, the fire damped down and a boy’s dreams put away till another season.
I won’t need to worry anymore about drowning in a teacup or being gobbled up by a giant frog but, just as when the Christmas tree is taken out with the trash, the house is going to seem much emptier without them and life will have lost a little bit of its sparkle.
Yes, it certainly beats having that damn “Bolero” throbbing in my temples.