My local Public Radio station has stopped offering the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoons in favor of cheaper and doubtless more popular talk show programs. I’m sure to be in the minority here—what else is new?—but this, to me, feels like yet more evidence of the decline and fall of western civilization in these United States. I’m probably over-reacting, but I’ve been listening to the Met on Saturday afternoons ever since I can remember. At first, of course, not intentionally listening, but my mother loved the opera, and if she could find a radio station which carried it, winter afternoons, that was the music which soared through our house. I would sit on the floor beside her bed, where she was ensconced with a half-read murder mystery, the ever present cigarettes and a blonde cocker-spaniel , listening to the radio. Here I’d invent my own games and stories, moving toys across the woolen rugs. Opera seeped through my skin, I guess, and I learned composers and famous singers and opera lore simply by being present. Long winter afternoons, gray and snowy—we lived in upstate New York—it was a perfect way to hide out from the endless inclement weather. The Met came to us in all its high culture glory across Lake Eire from civilized Toronto, the path of least resistance for radio waves.
So now, in a way, I’ve returned full circle to that childhood. I spend hours daily in front of my computer, and, blessedly, at this point, internet radio stations are plentiful. I’ve settled on the CBC for my Saturday afternoon fix of Donizetti, Verdi, Wagner, Mozart, Puccini et al, and it just occurred to me that in a way, I’m right back where I started from, listening to this beloved, hallowed, and increasingly hoary art form, courtesy of the kindly Canadian Broadcasting system.