GROWING up, I thought Mozart was cute. He wore a scarlet coat, had nice curly white hair, and looked young and sweet in the portrait that hung in the school music room alongside other classical composers (who tended to be old and fat, with bulldog-like jowls).
Last week, however, Mozart was mincing his way ahead of us at the National Museum.
Or rather, an actor pretending to be Mozart was.
He even held his hand out coquettishly to the side in a parody of 18th Century foppishness as he ushered us into the venue.
My two-year-old son tugged at my hand. "Put your hand out like him," Julian said to me. And thus, we were led into the National Museum's Mozart: A Child Prodigy exhibition - a popular exhibition for tykes imported from Vienna's ZOOM Kindermuseum and Da Ponte Institute - as part of the museum's inaugural Children's Season.
While older kids get to learn about 18th-century Austria and Mozart's life as a child, the Museum has a play-based learning programming for 18- to 36-month-old children. So when the invite came up to take part in an instalment dedicated to the Mozart show, I jumped at it.
The hour-long session kicked off with much song, dance and hilarity, which whipped the toddlers into enthusiastic cheering and general bonhomie.
Julian, being his usual shy, uncooperative self among strangers, remained glued to my lap as other kids danced and cavorted in the room. He did, however, take applauding and cheering very seriously.
All around us, dedicated mummies and daddies coaxed their little ones to participate in the proceedings, laying the foundation for an appreciation in arts and culture.
By the end of the session, we'd clanked wooden spoons and bowls at Mozart's alleged childhood dining table, got into a stationary horse carriage, and checked out the bed-bugs on Mozart's round, yellow canopy bed.
While the exhibition was well-designed, I wonder why Mozart's music did not figure more in it.
Apart from being able to hear some of his compositions while lying on a canopy bed, Mozart's early musical training and fulfilment of his prodigious abilities were not on obvious display.
Maybe it's all about soft-selling to the 21st-century kids: Hook them first with the frills and then reel them into the concert halls later?
Then again, many foetuses listen to Baby Mozart CDs these days, and new Irish football boss Giovanni Trapattoni recently prescribed Mozart's symphonies to his players to make them better footballers.
So, a bit more about the intricacies of Mozart's music and their tempo, rhythm and structure wouldn't have hurt at the Museum.
Still, I was struck anew by the lengths that contemporary parents would go to, to ensure that their toddlers got a head start in life while having fun.
And it's great knowing that there are more of these arty programmes for wee ones out there these days.
I remember wishing in my childhood that my frazzled housewife mother had the time and resources to take me to Act 3's children's theatre productions.
Perhaps, taking Julian to such events stems from my own desire to recapture the early arts education I never had. Okay, he may have been grumpy at times. But I couldn't have wished for a better new best friend to experience these things with.
Mozart: A Child Prodigy is on at the National Museum until July 6, from 10am to 6pm daily. Admission: $15 (adult), $7.50 (children and concession). Free for children under six years if accompanied by an adult. For details and schedule of the toddler programme, log on to www.nationalmuseum.sg.
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