Opera at the Ballpark in Santa Monica Review, Fall 2016

My story Opera at the Ballpark appears in the current issue of Santa Monica Review. I wrote the first draft of this story in March 2010, after volunteering at a simulcast–an opera performance, broadcast from the live show at the San Francisco Opera to a screen at the AT&T Ballpark. Walking home after the show, I passed the opera house. The performance had long ended, and the homeless people were canvassing the house stairs.  I struggled to make sense of opera’s place in the social order of the New World. Of the hundreds of people who’d come to see the simulcast at the ballpark, many told me they’d never been to the opera house. The company was financially insolvent. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, a sense of doom was in the air. The simulcast was one idea to reach out to larger audiences and to give opera mass appeal. The opera they had chosen was traditional, and staged as though to mimic a 19th Century production. To me, this was fairly familiar territory and I was bored by it, but I was in the minority. Most of the simulcast attendees seemed to have had an amazing time.

The story came out of these disparate threads of thought.

Here’s the first paragraph I wrote in 2010,

After the soprano finishes her dying aria on the giant screen above the third base, and the audience sitting in the stalls (word choice?) and on the grass of the baseball diamond scorched their throats with shouts “Go, Tosca!” and clapped so loud as if they wished to be heard back in the opera house two and a half miles away (distance?), the screen went black and the baseball stadium emptied quickly. A warm breeze filled the air with the fragrance of the cherry trees blooming all over the city, lavish romantic music made us sentimental, its heroic overtones urged us to commit ubiquitous acts of kindness,—and conversation flowed freely. Several trains came to pick up the passengers and left overcrowded, while more people continued to shuffle onto the platform. We decided against taking the train, and slowly made our way downtown along the dark waters of the bay.

Seventeen revisions later, the first paragraph of the story published in Santa Monica Review’s Fall 2016 issue looks like this,

The final sounds of the soprano’s aria soar over the baseball diamond as Tosca collapses on stage projected onto the giant screen above second base. The audience sitting in the bleachers and on the grass explodes with shouts “Go, Tosca!” and applause almost loud enough to be heard back at the opera house two miles away. The screen goes black and everyone stands up, emptying the plastic cups of the last drops of beer and pushing cartons with the remains of cheese fries deeper under the seats. The simulcast is over. On the field, families pack up their picnic baskets and fold blankets.

Thank you, Andrew Tonkovich, for publishing this story and for helping me with the title. You can buy the issue and subscribe to the magazine on Santa Monica Review’s website here.

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