Washington National Opera presents ‘Opera in the Outfield’ at Nats Park

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Opera in the Outfield' (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — You know what they say — it’s not over until the Bryce Harper sings.

Well, No. 34 isn’t actually going to be there, but you can watch opera at Nationals Park as the Washington National Opera presents the annual “Opera in the Outfield” on Saturday night.

“We’ve done this for a few years now and it’s just one of the most popular events of the fall season in Washington,” WNO general director Timothy O’Leary told WTOP.

“Last year, we had about 10,000 people come, and we’re hoping to double that this year.”

The event is free to the public with gates opening at 5 p.m. and the show starting at 7 p.m. Fans can either bring their picnic blankets to sit in the outfield or sit in the stadium seats, while the Jumbotron screens “The Barber of Seville” taped last season at the Kennedy Center.

“We had this hugely popular production of ‘Barber of Seville,’ which is the opera everybody knows even if they don’t know opera,” O’Leary said. “It’s the ‘figaro, figaro, figaro’ opera. You’ve seen the Bugs Bunny ‘Rabbit of Seville’ version. Well, the opera version is pretty similar. It’s hysterically funny. It’s this romantic comedy, so it’s this perfect opera for family and kids.”

In case you need a refresher, the love story of mistaken identity is set in 18th-century Seville.

“It’s boy meets girl,” O’Leary said. “Girl is imprisoned by her older guardian, who’s a famous doctor in town. Boy turns out to be a famous count in disguise. … He pretends to be a poor student and wants to get her attention but can’t get into the house. So, he gets his buddy Figaro, who is the barber. In those days, the barber is sort of everything in town. … Figaro gets a series of disguises so the count can get in to see Rosina and love can take its course.”

You could call it the original romantic comedy.

“Rossini wrote this to be funny, to be a feel-good comedy about love conquering all,” O’Leary said. “It’s got the catchiest tunes in the history of the world. The overture is one that everyone knows. The whole point of the overture is that mischief is coming. It’s all about people misunderstanding each other, putting each other in disguise, double-crossing one another.”

Along the way, you’ll be treated to world-class vocals.

“The star soprano is Isabel Leonard, one of the great stars,” O’Leary said. “There are singers who are great singers. She can sing. There are actors who are great actors. She can act. The triple threat is when you get somebody who can do it all simultaneously. She can depict a depth of emotion with just a trill of her voice, but she can do the same with a raised eyebrow.”

The cameras capture these moments in a highly-produced broadcast.

“That’s part of the fun of a broadcast like this,” O’Leary said. “At the Opera House, you just see them standing on stage. When you go to the broadcast, you get to see the close-ups and zoom-ins and all the camera work. … We have a fantastic, beautifully produced recording.”

In addition to the opera screening, there will also be other live presentations and activities.

“We’re going to have students from the Duke Ellington opera program perform,” O’Leary said. “There’s going to be other school children from the D.C. area performing, there are musical acts before the opera, the concession stands are open starting at 5 o’clock, there’s games and prizes, there’s going to be a live statue of Babe Ruth that you can take your selfie with.”

You can also take photos in various opera costumes.

“All of the costumes you see on the stage, they have to be made,” O’Leary said. “We have this incredible shop in Takoma Park and they make the costumes. They’re going all out and bringing a whole rack of costumes that kids of all ages can try on. These are opera costumes. This is your chance to be photographed for your Facebook feed in an opera costume.”

The goal is to show a fun, accessible side to the “high art” of opera.

“It’s all about not taking ourselves too seriously,” O’Leary said. “Getting people to try us out [in] a fun venue where you can have popcorn, peanuts and crackerjacks. … When opera was first invented in Italy, this was always popular mass entertainment. … People think opera is highfalutin … but, it’s also kind of absurd. You take every art form and mash it together. … We want people to come and give it a try. … We’re all about converting people into opera fans.”

Find out more on the event website. Listen to our full chat with Timothy O’Leary below:

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Timothy O'Leary (Full Interview) (Jason Fraley)
Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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