The baseball season may be over, but I’ve been neglecting something I’ve been meaning to write about since September. I’ve mentioned that I have family in the Bay Area. One thing I picked up on a recent visit out there was a new favorite radio station which—thanks to the wonders of the internet—I am able to listen to from anywhere. Why it’s my favorite station is a story for another blog, but one consequence of constantly listening to a San Francisco area station was that I got to hear quite a bit about a big musical event of the season: Opera at the Ballpark.
The idea is that once a year, San Francisco Opera picks a performance on a date the Giants are out of town and sends a live feed to be simulcast on the giant screen at the ballpark. It’s typically a well known and fairly “accessible” opera, and it is always free. This year’s event was Verdi’s Rigoletto on what I was told was a beautiful though slightly chilly evening in September.
That particular corporate-named stadium has always been one of my favorites, and San Francisco is one of the world’s most vibrant and colorful cities, so I could imagine that people could have a lot of fun with it, and was actually quite sorry I wouldn’t have a chance to attend. (And I don’t even like opera!) However, I recently had a chance to sit down and have a chat with my aunt Nan, who was able to attend.
We did speak briefly about the opera itself, which Nan felt was an impressive performance, but because I was far more interested in the overall experience, that was what I focused on. Here is a little of what she reported. She enjoyed the juxtaposition of opera with the regular ballpark fare. She went with a friend and sat right behind home plate, fairly close to the main concessions area, “and wafting out was the overwhelming smell of pickle relish.” There were nearly as many people there as a typical Giants game, and the crowd was all of “life’s rich pageant,” from the very elderly to “babes in arms.” Many who came staked out a seat somewhere in the outfield, and kids were running the bases all night long.
The evening started with a screening of the classic animation “What’s Opera, Doc?” featuring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Before the simulcast started, a gay men’s barbershop quartet—winners of an online poll—performed the Star Spangled Banner from the pitcher’s mound. But my favorite little detail, and something that is just so San Francisco, between the second and third acts, a performer from Beach Blanket Babylon, renowned for their magnificently over-the-top hats, lead the crowd in singing a ballpark staple, with some slight adjustments to the lyrics, “Take me out to the opera…”