Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Masked Ball--Opera In The Outfield, 2010

According to The Washington National Opera at the conclusion of today's simulcast, 15,000 people showed up at Nationals Park this Sunday afternoon to see Verdi's "A Masked Ball" live from The Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C. Considering The Washington Redskins were playing in front of approximately 90,000 fans in Landover, Maryland; Our Washington Nationals were playing the final game of a three-game set against The Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park; and the D.C. weather could not have been better--a stunningly beautiful 80 degree late summer day--the turnout on South Capitol Street for the 3rd Annual "Opera In The Outfield" was very impressive.

Yes, it was a matinee. And yes, it might have been a little uncomfortable if you were sitting in the sun, but thousands again came to watch, enjoy and take in Opera in one of the most unique settings ever organized--a baseball park. You've got to give The Washington National Opera credit here. They seem to be onto something good. In cooperation with Our Washington Nationals, Target Department Stores, Albritton Communications (WJLA &, Mars Candy and Rolex, the matinee performance of "A Masked Ball" was again a success.

Just take a look at the pictures, they speak for themselves. Thousands were attracted by the lure of a free stage performance to anyone wishing to attend. The chance to hang out in the outfield at Nationals Park, bring the family along--even a picnic lunch, or just sit down in one of the many seats throughout the three year old ballpark and take in the show. Many of Nationals Park's concession stands were open for business along the 3rd base side of the stadium as well--including Ben's Chili Bowl.

For the second consecutive year, Sohna and I attended. Instead of sitting in the sun on the grass, this time we chose seats near the main concourse in Section 113. This left us in the shade all day and made for perfect viewing of the the HDTV Screen showing The Kennedy Center simulcast. The nearly three hour performance (with two intermissions) was pretty entertaining and the sound quality excellent. There were zero problems listening to this opera on the ballpark's sound system.

Our only critique about the entire performance was watching the production at times on the HDTV Screen against a very bright, sunlit sky. "A Masked Ball" is a dark tragedy and the Kennedy Center Opera House stage was faintly lit for certain scenes to set the mood. That design for the in-house opera audience did not translate well to the Big Screen audience at the ballpark during the day. A times, the performers seemed to disappear against total blackness on the big television screen.

Hopefully, in 2011 and beyond, "Opera In The Outfield" can return to its roots. A night time performance that we feel provides a better atmosphere for attending something truly special. And that's what these Washington National Opera Simulcasts are--a distinctive treat which allows many that have never experienced opera before--to find out if it's too their liking. "Opera In The Outfield" also is a nice event that allows families to attend a stage performance without any costs attached.

That's how you find new fans. That's how you maintain your audience. And that's how The Washington National Opera is playing it smart.

Being kid friendly, "Opera In The Outfield" also featured costume wearing and mask making in The Kids Zone at Nationals Park. Families were welcomed to dress up in Opera attire and take pictures for the fun of it all. Additionally, others were encouraged to paint their own masks. As fans settled into their seats or their blankets on the field, My Best Friend!! Screech!! walked around Nationals Park meeting and greeting guests while wearing his own specially designed mask.

The NatPack even launched special "Opera In The Outfield" tee-shirts into the crowd during the first intermission.

ABC7/WJLA's Cynee' Simpson was the emcee for the event. Just before the performance began, she introduced D.C. Council Chair (and Democratic Mayoral Primary Winner) Vincent Gray for opening remarks. Mr. Gray was followed by Jane Lipton Cafritz--the chair of The Washington National Opera--and Frank Caisane from Target. The Washington National Opera's General Director, Placido Domingo , also welcomed everyone in a pre-taped video.

Upon leaving today's event, Target handed out backpacks and Frisbees to everyone in attendance.

We really like "Opera In The Outfield" because it's unique. And as baseball fans of Our Washington Nationals, we love to watch The Curtain Call at the conclusion of these simulcast performances. Don't ever leave your seats early because that's when The Curly "W" makes an appearance. While bowing to the crowd in thanks, the main characters from "A Masked Ball" stepped back on stage at The Kennedy Center Opera House today and saluted those watching while wearing Red Nationals Home Baseball Caps. A very nice touch and a fitting conclusion for another successful "Opera In The Outfield".

15,000 people can't be wrong and neither is The Washington National Opera with this now yearly, well attended, event.

Screen Grabs of "A Masked Ball" from The Washington National Opera
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Edward J. Cunningham said...

If you were watching the opera rather than the ninth inning of the Nats-Phillies game, you got a bargain! I think I may have to see this next year...

Section 222 said...

I went to the show too, and agree with everything you said. It's a great idea and very well executed. It shows there's an audience for opera out there if only it wasn't so expensive at the Kennedy Center.

A few minor complaints should be noted. First, only the centerfield gate was open and that made for very long lines to enter the park. We arrived outside the park 15 minutes before curtain time, but actually missed the beginning of the overture because of the lines. The park/opera needs to hire some more security personnel and open more gates.

Second, there was a lot of noise coming from the concourse during the last act, probably the vendors cleaning up and shutting down. I'm not talking about crowd noise, which can't really be helped, but clanging and crashing. Next year, I'll move down towards the field to get away from that.

Finally, I totally agree that the event works better in the evening. It's more comfortable, the scoreboard is more visible, and it's much easier to concentrate on the music rather than the crowds on the field.

And yes, it was just fine to not miss Storen's crash and burn in the 9th in Philly.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Section222--You just hit on something we noticed as well. The amount of noise from vendors cleaning up and shutting down on the main concourse as the final act played out. It's a very good point and made Sohna and I also think about moving closer next year.