The Other Guy

Fair warning — this is mostly going to be lost on you unless you are one or both of the following: A Gen Xer and a Seinfeld junkie. So this actually happened:

My 4 1/2 year old sons are, of course, being force-fed a diet of classical music (with occasional ragtime, sometimes played live by yours truly or on record by my old friend and mentor, that late great Johnny Maddox)

and both are taking to it to a surprising extent. To predict, we’ve got one budding conductor — who can actually beat time very accurately with my old baton — and the other who expresses himself more physically through dance and what way more than toddler wiggles but genuinely looks like spontaneous choreography.

Mr. Conductor, who generally likes to be in charge of things (fitting the Maestro type) also actually likes opera. That took me a very long time; I too was force-fed the classics, but didn’t get into opera until my college years. But not so this young man. We started out with Pavarotti, who he can now identify not only by sight but by voice, and can distinguish him from other tenors, particularly the other I’ve chosen to play the most, of course, Domingo (a/k/a “Bingo.”) The favorite based on YouTube options and my own collection, is Rigoletto, where our boy can actually follow the plot (The Duke, “the lady,” and the “Bad man with the puppett.”) 

In trying to get video of Questo of Quella, I was led by YouTube to relent to the Thee Tenors (a complete opera is there, and we’ve made it through almost the whole thing a few times, with him insisting on being read the subititles, which I condense into age-appropriate equivalents) — but (cringe) the only solo version that pops up has him there with Zubin, Bingo, and Jose Carreras. Here’s where Seinfeld comes in.

Both boys are experimenting with playing our piano themselves — no lessons yet — and Mr. Conductor not onlyGilels tinkles along but also composes. His pieces also have titles, which he always announces, and sometimes correspond to his favorite storybooks. A repeat favorite is “The Goodnight Moon Song.” Picking up on this I struggled through The Moonlight Sonata for them, which they thought was slow and boring until I relented and attempted the third movement. Way too rusty, so I put on the Gilels record, because the cover actually has a moon. Mr. Future Nureyev enjoyed that one.

Picking up on this, my wife suggest I try some other moon-themes pieces, and so we tried “Moon River,” which worked on YouTube in the original Breakfast at Tiffany’s clip, which is both short, simple, and features Audrey Hepburn on guitar — another ambition of Mr. Conductor.

What I wasn’t ready for was his immediate request to find Pavarotti or Domingo singing this song, which, YouTube unfortunately revealed, they did, in (yes) The Three Tenors. All three of them, in horrid accents, with ridiculous accompaniment. But of course, while Luciano and Placido were immediate identified, Mr. Conductor turned to me and — cue the Seinfeld, season 7, — asked with genuine confusion about poor Carreras sandwiched between them, “Who’s the other guy”? (skip to 4:15)

I nearly lost it, and if you remember anything about the who Maestro subplot (to the extent that show ever had plots — maybe we should just say sub-theme) there was that episode that revolved around the Three Tenors, which at the time was selling like hotcakes. I had to endure it personally as a then-employee of Tower Records, where customers would actually come in and unwittingly give us examples of life imitating art, asking for that CD of Pavarotti, Domingo and “the other guy.” I have to imagine that Seinfeld heard this himself and this led to writing that episode. But it still rings true, even with four year olds 25 years later. Poor Carreras! As much as I love Pavarotti, and many of the weightier roles (pun intended) Carreras actually was the better singer. (e.g. Aida).

Anyway, jump to 1:40 for proof this actually was on the air. Unfortunately we don’t entirely live in the Truman Show, so I don’t have video of my son actually saying this to me!

About Jonathan Riehl

Jonathan Riehl writes and teaches communications, rhetoric, and American politics. He used to be a Republican. View all posts by Jonathan Riehl

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