Opera in the Outfield

Hundreds of bare feet grazed the Nationals’ field as families and couples picnicked for “Opera in the Outfield” last Sunday.

“We love doing this event because we believe opera is for everyone,” said Jane Lipton Cafritz, chairwoman for Washington National Opera.

Nationals Stadium opened the field and bleachers for the opera “A Masked Ball,” directed by James Robinson, which was broadcast live in high definition from the Kennedy Center Opera House on the Nationals Stadium scoreboard, one of the largest in the country.

Doors opened at noon to give people time to visit tables to sign up for raffles, enjoy chocolate from the Mars company – an event sponsor – and take children to the Family Fun Zone where they could experience opera firsthand by making masks to be used in the “Masked Ball.” The Family Fun Zone also allowed children to try on actual opera costumes and pose for pictures. It was a great introduction to opera for young children, a place to instill a passion and interest in opera with hands-on learning while having fun.

The opera itself was a little heavy for children, but this did not seem to keep families away. “A Masked Ball,” a three act opera, is a tragic tale about a Swedish king, Gustavus III, who is in love with his best friend’s wife, Amelia. He goes to have his fortune told and is told that the next person’s hand he shakes will murder him. Gustavus chooses to shake the hand of his best friend, Anckarstrom, thinking that the prophecy will be wrong because of it, but when Anckarstrom finds out about Gustavus’s love for his wife, he becomes enraged, and things get interesting.

The broadcast began at 2 p.m. starting with the National Anthem sung by Jose Ortega, a Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist. The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program is run by Washington National Opera to train up and coming opera professionals.

This year is the third time the Nationals hosted Opera in the Outfield with Washington National Opera. It has become an important community event to foster a passion for opera in the DC area.

“Our free simulcasts are Washington National Opera’s gift to the city and to the public, in great thanks for all their support,” stated Plácido Domingo, now resigning General Director of Washington National Opera.

The event was a joint effort by both Washington National Opera and Nationals Stadium in a unique fuse between opera and baseball, two things that might seem as unrelated hamburgers and hairballs. However, Crafitz offered a parallel between the two, sgtating that, “Opera is kind of like baseball because it is a team effort.”

The sound of opera resounded throughout the surrounding blocks of the stadium drawing people in. Guests to the stadium drug pillows, blankets, and even bean bag chairs onto the field, laying out picnics and food from the concession stands. Children of all ages, and even at times their parents, danced around the field to the music and swung imaginary bats as two very different pastimes came together. Even the Nationals mascot Screech walked around the field in a mask for “The Masked Ball” before the broadcast, shaking hands with children.

This fusion became more apparent when during the curtain call, conductor Daniele Callegari and the opera singers sported Washington Nationals ball caps. The crowd at both the Kennedy Center, from where the opera was being broadcast, and the crowd at Nationals Stadium cheered loudly. It was not just a great day for opera, but a great day for a community to come together.

“Thank you for allowing us not only to be a business partner, but a community partner,” said Frank Casaine, manager for skyline Target in Falls Church, one of the event sponsors. “We hope to foster a greater appreciation for the arts and a stronger community.”

The second intermission was dedicated to the mix of opera and baseball and was titled, “Seventh Aria Stretch.” During that time the award was given to Gale Martin for the “Take Me Out the Opera” songwriting contest, a contest wherein participants wrote new lyrics for the tune “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

The Washington National Opera hopes that this event will inspire the next generation to appreciate opera beyond a spectacular afternoon in Nationals Stadium. In order to foster a generational appreciation, they have begun offering a service, Generation O, which provides discounted tickets to student and young professionals ages 18 to 35.

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