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Take Me Out To The Opera

June 25, 2008

Until last Friday night, when I attended San Francisco Opera's live simulcast of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at AT&T Ballpark in San Francisco, I didn't realize that the baseball anthem "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" was something of a national anthem in this country.

The song, which happens to be celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer, was cloned during intermission on Friday night, as c. 23,000 opera-goers joined together in singing SF Opera's spoof version:

Take me out to the opera,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me seat at the Opera House.
I don't care if it's Mozart or Strauss,
For it's "root, root, root, for the divas,
Bring a friend or a spouse,
For it's "one, two, three cheers for you"
at the Opera House.

This was just one of the many moments that will make last Friday evening last in my memory for a long time. It helped that the weather was beautiful. San Francisco summer evenings can get pretty arctic. But last weekend boasted T-shirt weather even after dark. (Compare this to last year's inaugural live ballpark simulcast of Samson and Delilah: the weather was so chilly that some people I spoke to were put off coming again this year.)

The experience of watching the great Natalie Dessay perform Lucia was sublime. Even when viewed at a great distance on a relatively small screen with planes flying over head, people lining up to order beer a few feet away, and a slight delay on the sound, causing the singer's lips to move slightly faster than the words that came out of her mouth, she made the role vast, dark and unbelievably raw.

23,000 people gazed up at her in awe during her descent into madness at the end. Given that it was about 11pm and San Franciscans don't stay up late and are worried about things like getting to their cars in time to avoid getting stuck after a show, I was amazed at how few of the audience members moved around or got up to leave.

I was also impressed with the responsiveness of the ballpark audience. When Lucia signs her fateful wedding contract, picknickers sprawled out on the baseball diamond yelled "NO!!! DON'T DO IT!!!" Everytime a singer finished a big aria, the crowd behaved like Barry Bonds had just hit a home run. Ah, I thought to myself. This is what it's all about.

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