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And I was not the one performing athletic feats all afternoon and evening.
Sitting through yesterday’s doubleheader at Citi Field–including witnessing a tripleplay and Jon Niese’s one-hitter–made me wonder if ballplayers have specific regimens or diets for a long day such as that.
While not nearly so athletic a feat, I am often asked to perform doubleheaders myself.
The Metropolitan Opera performs seven operas a week during its regular season, including a matinee and an evening performance on Saturdays. Depending upon which operas are scheduled, I might be called upon to “play two” or not.
The advantage to doing so is that it gets two of the four shows per week dictated by my contract out of the way in one (long) day. For that reason, many orchestra musicians, if given the choice, prefer to be scheduled for “double Saturdays”.
Unlike ballgames whose endtime is never known, it is relatively easy to determine the approximate running time of an opera, barring any lengthy technical problems onstage or a cancellation by a singer and the necessary time required to get a cover warmed up and into costume.
However, even though the total performance time of the sum of the two operas on a double Saturday is predetermined, the actual time commitment can vary widely depending upon the two operas scheduled and each of their running times.
Yesterday’s doubleheader prompted me to think of some of the more memorable doubleheaders I’ve played.
- One double–Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff–represented not only two operas by the same composer but works also both based on Shakespeare and featuring a libretto by Arrigo Boito.
- A long day in 1997 when I performed as part of a TV telecast of Giordano’s Fedora, followed by Wagner’s Götterdämmerung in the evening.
- And, probably the longest double I have ever played: Wagner’s *Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (about six hours), followed by Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (about
4 1/2 hours. 3 1/4 hours.) I definitely needed some Carmex after that day!
I’m sure certain games go by much faster than others for the players, depending upon how fast the pitcher works, how many men get on base, how much the weather is an annoyance or distraction, whether it’s a home or away game, or other factors I have not even thought of.
I know that, for me, some operas SEEM longer to me than others that are actually longer, simply because I enjoy playing some operas more than others.
Clocking in at just over three hours, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly–the ultimate tear-jerker and rarely, in my experience cast well–always seems interminable to me.
Contrast that with the final opera in Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle: Götterdämmerung. The first act alone is two hours. Add two more acts and two intermissions, and you’re looking at a performance that takes just under six hours. And yet, any time I’ve played that opera, the time has seemed to FLY by.
*An additional challenge in this opera is that the last act is the longest act at 2 hours and ten minutes. In fact, the last act by itself is longer than all of La Bohème.
It’s been TEN YEARS since the Mets swept the Marlins at home.
Maybe the long interim and the anticipation is what makes this Fish Dish SO delectable!
It’s quite evident that, with their major-league best 22-9 record at home, these boys prefer la cuisine de la maison, i.e., “HOME COOKIN’!”
Well, no, of course not, Ollie. You’re absolutely correct: it DOES state in your contract that you must agree to the suggestion of going down to the minors.
But, see here, Ollie: by your staying up here with the club, you’re not putting yourself in a position to improve.
Yes, yes. We know. Nobody can MAKE you. But, Ollie, didn’t nice Mr. Boras tell you that he thought it was a good idea? And you know that he always has your very best interests in mind, don’t you? Wasn’t he the one that got you this cush..[ahem] big contract in the first place?
Son, we’ll say it again: there is absolutely no shame in accepting this assignment. Other pitchers have been asked to do the same thing and, with time and effort, they’ve been able to solve their problems and make a successful return to the team. We want to help you with this, Ollie. Really, we do.
Well, but you see, Ollie, you may THINK that there is no problem, but opposing hitters have a way of telling us that in fact you really DO have a problem.
No, wait. Please! Not a problem that can’t be RECTIFIED. Not a problem without a solution!
There, there. Settle down.
Now, Ollie. Let’s be reasonable, shall we? We are committed to you and your successful return to the bigs 100%. [You'd better believe we are, for what we're paying you.]
We are talking about a short period of time. A brief part of your otherwise illustrious career. And, hey, it’s not like you’re going to be slumming it while you’re there: we’ve arranged first class travel and major league per diem for you while you’re there–just like you enjoy now.
You’d be surprised how far that goes in upstate New York or in the Miami area!
Okay, Ollie. We get it.
You don’t want to go to Buffalo. You don’t want to go to Port St. Lucie.
But, you know what, Son? We don’t always get what we WANT in life!
You’re kidding, right?
I’m sorry, but I fail to see the humor in this, Perez.
Oh for God’s sake. Will someone please get Ray Ramirez in here?!
Which knee is it, Ollie?
No, Ollie, that was most certainly not meant to be a trick question.
The Phillies return tonight to Citi Field. Since their last visit, accusations have come out that the Phillies’ bullpen coach, Mick Billmeyer has been stealing signs, using binoculars.
Major League Baseball issued an executive order in 2001 barring the use of “electronic equipment”, citing that it could not be used “for communications or for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a club an advantage.”
Obviously, bincoluars do not constitute “electonic equipment”, but their alleged use in this situation seems suspect, at best.
Yes, yes, I know: stealing signs has been around for as long as there’s been baseball. But, somehow, stealing signs with the aid of binoculars seems egregious to others besides me. The Rockies filed a formal complaint against the Phillies over the matter and the team was reprimanded. Rockies manager Jim Tracy stated,
“A pair of binoculars staring down the gun barrel of the hitting area, I don’t think a club in baseball that’s competing against that team would take too kindly to that,” Rockies. …You start reflecting back on some of the things that have taken place in previous games and it makes you sit here and wonder a little bit.”
And here’s what Cy Young winner Steve Stone was quoted as saying when Sammy Sosa was taken to task for stealing signs by the Cardinals in 2002:
”To be honest with you, sign-stealing used to be much more of an art than it is now. But as long as you are not stealing signs from the scoreboard, using a camera or something, then you are stealing legitimately.”
Because of the accusations, the rather absurd retort by Charlie Manuel that he found the Mets’ astounding home record (at that time, anyway) suspicious, along with the usual animosity created by uncivilized Phillies fans in our ballpark, I’m willing to bet the fans, if not the players themselves, will show up tonight on the lookout for any signs of foul play and ready to extract vengeance in the form of a big win.
Operas by Richard Wagner are notoriously lengthy. The final opera in the composer’s four-opera Ring Cycle–Götterdämmerung, or “Twilight of the Gods”–is one of the longest. Depending on the conductor’s pacing, the opera’s three acts with intermissions can clock in at close to six hours.
Because of its length, this opera (one of my favorites, by the way) has been affectionately dubbed “Goddamn, It’s Long!”, a play on its German title.
When we embark on the journey that is the final opera of this saga, some of my colleagues have been known to comment to one another that, in the time it takes to perform the opera, we could take a trans-Atlantic flight and be in Europe.
How ironic, then, that at the conclusion of last night’s Mets game, my husband commented that the game had lasted about the same amount of time as Götterdämmerung, albeit without the blazing pyre–The Immolation Scene–that concludes that opera.
Another irony about last night was this:
I often talk baseball with my good friend and opera colleague, bass-baritone Alan Held, pictured at left with Anna Netrebko. (If you saw the recent PBS telecast of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann from the MET, you saw him in the villain roles.)
Hailing from Illinois, Alan is a died-in-the-wool Cardinals fan. Although he is not one to gloat, I did take my share of ribbing from him during the 2006 Post Season.
Although we had not corresponded prior to the Mets’ arrival in St. Louis for the three-game series, I fully expected to get a message from him following Friday night’s Cardinal win at the Mets’ expense.
Saturday began for me with a matinee performance of La Traviata. At the conclusion of the opera a little after 4PM, I tuned my radio to the game on the drive home. I watched the game on TV at home, waiting as long as I dared possible (about the time of the amazing Cora catch in foul territory) and then drove back in to the city for the evening performance of Tosca.
Desperately hoping to see a Mets win, I stayed tuned to the game via MLB.com’s At Bat and SlingBox. But when the orchestra tuned, the curtain went up, and my phone was turned off, the game was still scoreless.
Following the fortissimo closing chords of Act I, I quickly turned on my phone. Much to my surprise, not only was the game still going, but not a single run had been recorded.
Surprised at not having heard from Alan, before returning to the orchestra pit for Act II, I quickly typed and posted this message to his Facebook Wall:
“Wow! Can you BELIEVE how our teams are battling it out at Busch Stadium?! Watched at home after playing Traviata, started Tosca, and am watching now at first intermission! Here we go to the bottom of the SIXTEENTH!”
Cavaradossi was tortured mercilessly by Scarpia’s minions, Tosca sang passionately about her lifelong devotion to art, Scarpia pressed Tosca for sexual favors in exchange for her boyfriend’s safe release from prison, Tosca stabbed Scarpia, and the currtain came down. All of this had transpired during Act II and yet, although runs had now been scored, the game had still not ended.
With the aid of MLB.com’s At Bat, I did “see” the game’s conclusion–barely–before running into the pit for the beginning of the final act of the opera.
But over the course of twenty long innings, I still hadn’t heard back from my favorite Cardinals fan.
Wasn’t he watching this FANTASTIC game?? Where in the world was he??!!
I got my answer when I checked Facebook this morning:
“WOW!!! I only just now got in from “Gotterdammerung” and dinner here in L.A. Unbelievable. 2-1 in 20. That’s incredible–and that neither teamed scored until the 19th??? I just can’t get my mind around this one. How I would have loved to have seen this pitcher’s duel—and the Cards outhit the Mets but nobody could score. I’ve got to read about this one.”
It was then that I remembered that Alan was on the West Coast performing the role of Gunther in performances of–you guessed it: Gotterdammerung!
Sitting in the stands next to my daughter at Mets games, my daughter often entertains me with parodies of at-bat music and songs of her own making.
With outfielder Ryan Church having been traded to the Braves in exchange for Jeff Francouer this weekend, I told her that I could think of no more fitting farewell than to document the “Church Rap”–complete with hand motions that many of us learned as children in Sunday School–that she often performed for me in the stands when Church came up with a big hit.
So, with heartfelt appreciation to a beloved ballplayer and to my gifted daughter for sharing her time and talents, please enjoy “Church Rap”:
I’ve had difficulty “singing the praises of the Mets” lately…except in some sort of out-of-tune way. Thus, the absence of recent posts.
I keep waiting for the chance to vocalize in a fully supported manner, but this less-than-encore-deserving run of Mets losses has only inspired me to warbling off-key humor.
Fact: the Mets have suffered an unbelievable number of injuries (record-breaking?) this season. Their struggle to stay competitive in spite of this has been admirable if not downright miraculous.
I’ve seen and heard it all:
“The Mets are playing hurt.”
“The Mets are putting a Junior Varsity team out there.”
“The Mets just have to tread water until the regulars get back.”
“Just wait until after the All-Star break.”
“You can’t blame them: some of these players are minor-leaguers.”
But even with those disclaimers and glass-half-full observations, last night’s loss was a new low.
From F-Mart’s blooper-reel-worthy performance in the outfield to our ace Santana’s bases on balls and dugout temper tantrum, it was a night to test even the most ardent fan’s patience.
Meanwhile, in that never-ending side-bar story to any Met fan’s daily digest–hoping the Phillies will at least lose (and barring that, the Yankees)–the Atlanta Braves did manage to help us out: aided by the mere threat of Jeff Francouer donning his magic underwear,
Go ahead and laugh. I am.
Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog recently excoriated manager Jerry Manuel for jokingly looking for his (hidden) offense under the table when asked about the Mets’ bats at his post-game press conference on Sunday night following the derailed Subway Series.
Maybe, at least in Cerrone’s opinion, Manuel is not in a position to kid around. And, granted, the Mets’ falling further and further below .500 is no laughing matter.
I, on the other hand, am in a position to joke around and, in fact, have now arrived at the “what else can you do but laugh” point.
And with that little prelude in mind, I offer up (with apologies to my Mom, a die-hard Braves fan) some contrasting themes between the Mets’ and Braves’ clubhouses:
The Mets’ offense has flown the coop and, especially last night, they are looking like a bunch of birdbrains in the field; the Braves are closing in on us, their right-fielder bluffing about lucky turkey shorts.
The Mets are awaiting the return of Major-League ready jocks; the Braves are talking jockeys.
The Mets need their A-Team; the Braves are talking G-strings.
The Mets desperately need the long ball; the Braves are talking long johns.
You get the idea.
Laughing keeps me from crying:
after all, I don’t want to be perceived as a pantywaist.
Original artwork “Phillie Cheese Steak Brand” From the ”Orange Crate Label Series: The Unauthorized History of Baseball in 1-Odd Paintings” (2005) by Ben Sakoguch courtesy of the artist..
“I wonder what it must be like to be Luis Castillo, waking up this morning,” my husband said on our morning walk with the dog.
“I’ll bet it all seemed like a bad dream, and then he realized the disaster had not been a dream,” I responded.
Luis Castillo’s dropping what should have been a routine fly ball that would’ve ended the game with a Mets win but instead resulted in a brutal Mets loss at Yankee Stadium last night no doubt resulted in loss of sleep by the player himself and countless interested parties in the tri-state area. No doubt, this botched play was also part of many Mets fans’ morning ruminations.
Thinking of the incident in the context of a bad dream led me to think about my own and others’ nightmares and their origins.
Even though I have not been in a broadcast studio on any regular basis for seventeen years, my years as an announcer for public radio stations in Kansas and Washington are the basis of nightmares I have to this day:
I’m stumbling around the music library, trying to find a CD while the unbearable silence of dead air over the station’s monitors provides the (non-) background music to my insufferably slow search for some appropriate music to play.
“Hmm. A Beethoven String Quartet? How about a Mozart overture? No. I’d have to run back here and get something else longer to follow that. Hurry! Hurry! Just PICK something!”
It amazes me that the challenges of my professional radio days continue to formulate my subconsious, even many years later.
Less surprising are the nightmares I have in which I am at my place of employment–the Metropolitan Opera. These dreams have a recurring scenario: I can hear the orchestra playing in the pit and the singers onstage. No matter what I do, I cannot find how to get into the pit. Yet, the music keeps going and going.
I can literally hum along my own part to the music as it keeps going and going, but every passageway I take ends in a dead-end, and the closest I can ever get to my designated chair in the orchestra is looking down into the pit from various high vantage points in the opera house.
Baseball players must have similar profession-related dreams, don’t you think?
I bet it would very interesting hearing the details of those nocturnal visions, fueled by each player’s specific phobias.
To some, perhaps certain ballparks loom large and formidable.
Perhaps batters dream of facing a particularly daunting pitcher: Randy Johnson in his prime, for example.
Those dreams everyone has in which one needs to flee but is running slow-motion in quicksand? Perhaps the equivalent is that a player’s bat speed has decreased so significantly that he can’t keep up with any pitches at all.
While I would be curious to hear what happens in ballplayers’ reveries, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to see the stuff of nightmares played out in front of my very eyes as I and thousands of groaning Mets fans did last night.
I have a feeling Luis Castillo and that routine pop-up will be seeing one another at night for years to come.
“I Got It”, by Sherry De Ghelder, St. Louis Burb, Missouri, USA. Oil on panel.
For information about this work and the artist, go to: