Our grandchildren in Arizona (3 months and 3 1/2 years) watch the occasional TV (well, the older one watches). One of the shows, which our son couldn’t believe we hadn’t heard of, is called Classical Baby, in which a diapered toddler takes on musical and artistic chestnuts. It is, I learn from Wikipedia, a Canadian show from about 2005, with separate episodes for Music, Art, Dance, Poetry, and Lullabies, available on DVD and HBO. The animations are clever and the pieces — Waltz of the Flowers, for example — are pleasant. Needless to say, a piece like the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto is massively shortened and simplified. Still, it’s there, and pretty cute — as are Bach’s Prelude to the first cello suite, Debussy’s Claire de Lune, and Appalachian Spring. The orchestra is made up of animals — as is the audience.
Here’s a collection of snippets. Notice how wonderfully the conductor raps his baton for silence, a toddler-Toscanini! O mio babbino caro (2:25) is one of my favorites!
At the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, there are some mid-18th-century paintings from the 18th century that reminded us of Classical Baby — a series by Charles-André Vanloo featuring (slightly older) children as artists and musicians. Apparently they hung in the Versailles palace of Mme de Pompadour.
If Classical Baby is cute and amusingly Canadian, Vanloo’s seem just creepy.
These children are miniature versions of the court of Louis XV — overdressed and oversexed; pampered aristocrats, not music-lovers in Pampers.
Music and art are here laden with gendered sexual tension; girl-children are on display; semi-nude modeling is the equivalent of playing the piano, a louche entertainment in expensive silks.
I’m glad my grandchildren are watching Classical Baby!