Music teacher Tresa Waggoner is having a devil of a time in Bennett, where the school board has put her on paid leave while it investigates a handful of complaints that she showed snippets from a video on Charles Gounod's Faust -- a video that the teacher, an opera singer in her first year at Bennett Elementary School, pulled from the 33-year-old "Who's Afraid of Opera?" series in the school's music library -- to a group of first- and second-graders. A video featuring hand puppets!
The devil you say!
We say that kids could learn a lot from this 150-year-old tale of how Mephistopheles convinces Faust to sell his soul to the Devil. It's obvious that school officials in their home town east of Aurora already know how to do just that.
Opera for kids
But why stop at Faust? Many other operas carry dangerous, if valuable, lessons for students:
Vincenzo Bellini's Norma: Have kids out of wedlock and you could get burned -- at the stake.
Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto: If you had a hump and a limp, you'd want a handicapped parking space, too.
Wolfgang Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte: You can resolve jealousy issues without violence. (Get counseling.)
Verdi's La Traviata: If you don't take your medicine, you'll cough yourself to death.
Giacomo Puccini's La Tosca: To defend yourself against sexual abuse, stab the perp.
Gioacchino Rossini's The Barber of Seville: Gay people can really be clever --Carson Kressley is nothing compared to Figaro. (This opera also teaches the values of recycling, since Rossini used the overture from a previous, less successful show.)
Rossini's Cinderella: Charity has its own virtues. (This opera is guaranteed to make you give to Toys for Tots.)
Georges Bizet's Carmen: If you're a tease, you're going to get it in the end. (And smoking will kill you, too.)
Richard Wagner's The Flying Dutchman: There are better ways to share needles, the "Sewing Chorus" shows.
Puccini's La Bohme: Never give up on your dreams, even though you'll probably be living in a freezing attic forever.
Puccini's Madame Butterfly: The U.S. Armed Forces keep their promises.
Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel: None of this would have happened if the kids had just been in school.
Not to mention that all of the above could inspire the study of French, Italian or German as a second language -- none of which will help you get food stamps.
Waggoner's plight at the hands of a half-dozen prudie-pants has made international news -- and raised complaints from opera- and free-speech lovers around the globe. Join the chorus at www.savetresa.org.
Kiss and tell: Last week, the loyal supporter behind the Draft Hick movement (www.drafthick.com) promised Off Limits that he'd come out of the political closet once John Hickenlooper finally announced whether he'd go for governor.
On Monday, Andrew Luxen made good on his vow -- even though Hick had balked at a run. "It was not the answer we were hoping for," admits the third-year law student at the University of Denver, who set up the website with a few cohorts last April. "Certainly the entire city and county, and the staff, will benefit from him staying mayor of Denver. But with the kind of impact he could have had, it's a disappointment. A lot of people had high hopes."
Although their hero disappointed them, the drafthickers haven't given up on politics entirely. "We'll stay involved in some way," Luxen says. "Everyone's young, and there's a lot of youthful energy they want to direct in some way." For his part, Luxen recently directed some energy to being elected president of the Colorado Young Democrats.
So we guess that means he won't be throwing his support to Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Holtzman, who left his post as DU president to make a run? "I can categorically say no," Luxen promises.
And he keeps his promises.
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In the center ring: "This trial is a circus," terrorist conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui proclaimed at the opening of his sentencing trial Monday. "I want to be heard."
We're just lucky we're not hearing him here: Back in April 2002, he'd demanded that his case be moved from Virginia to a "more neutral location" -- Denver, natch. "It is well-known that Denver Colorado is recognized in the general public as a safe secure location (the presence of the highest maximum security jail in the U.S. makes it difficult for the government to argue otherwise)," Moussaoui wrote. "And no doubt that the high altitude and the fresh air will bring back some sense of security (maybe?)."
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema denied his request -- a decision she must now regret.
Scene and herd: Not seen in the audience at last week's State of the Union: Colorado developer Jim Nicholson, the former chair of the Republican National Committee who was named by President George W. Bush first to serve as Ambassador to the Holy See, then to a slot as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. By tradition, one cabinet member stays away from the speech, just so somebody's left to be president should Moussaoui types get any ideas. Back when he did double duty in Bill Clinton's administration (as head of Transportation, then Energy), Federico Peña often sat things out. ... You don't want to sit too close to ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas these days. On January 29, her work partner, World News Tonight co-anchor Bob Woodruff, sustained serious head wounds in Iraq -- and the next day, Joseph Yacteen pleaded not guilty to shooting her life partner, singer-songwriter Mark Cohn, when he was in Denver for a concert last August. ... Spotted on Speer Boulevard: a car with an Alabama plate but a bumpersticker claiming "I'm not a native, but I got here as fast as I could."