"See in spate [sudden events] the high cataract [powerful waterfall] storming:
All in terror must fly from its path.
So in terror flies the foe before me,
When I brandish this sword in my wrath"
- Handel's Julius Caesar (translated by Brian Trowell, courtesy of Chandos Records)
Baseball, and indeed any sport, is imbued with a sense of ecstatic drama. It's akin to war, the thrill of blood and battle palpable to the victors and death to the vanquished.
I grew up in a family of sports fanatics, on both sides of the genealogical primordial pool. My grandma on my father's side was a member of the first original Chicago Cubs Fan Club. When my grandpa on my mother's side retired from his post at the tollbooth company, an artist at his VFW morphed his face onto a caricature of Harry Caray.
While I do feel the electric energy of The Cubs finally making it to The World Series, I am but an onlooker, not a participant. Being able to sit back and analyze the hype, excitement, and satisfaction of years of anticipation is exciting enough.
As I watched the game last night, I felt as if I was watching an opera. Being an opera singer myself, I am apt to draw opera to connect with anything, as is evidenced by the time I tried to justify my love of opera in high school by tracing the origin of opera to the creation of modern rap music. And, still, I try to find parallels to my art and the world around me.
The lyric I started this article with is from Handel's opera Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) which has war and love at the root of its plot. As The Cubs fought valiantly last night, sadly in vain, I saw the spark of an operatic drama brewing. The theatrical nature of the sports area is one of brilliant choreography and taut dramatic tension.
The drama of The Cubs is comparable to Stephen Sondheim's "musical thriller" Sweeney Todd, which is often touted as the most operatic musical ever to land on Broadway. For years Sweeney Todd was imprisoned on false charges and can't wait to exact revenge on those who betrayed him. Thusly, The Cubs have had perhaps the worst luck out of any major sports team of the last 100 years. That feeling of vengeance has been bubbling like a fine chowder for so long and the time is ripe now to strike. At one point Mrs. Lovett, Todd's partner-in-crime, urges him to "Wait" for his vengeance:
"Slow, love, slow, time's so fast
Now goes quickly, see, now it's past
Soon will come, soon will last
Don't you know, silly man
Half the fun is to plan the plan
All good things come to those who can
The Cubs have bided their time admirably and, like ol' Sweeney, they can't wait to draw blood.
One of the best things about being on the sidelines of the hype is to see the reaction of the elderly fans who have been waiting for this for decades. They have no malice, no ill feelings, but they now can revel in the sensation they've imagined since they were but children. Like the "weary" Don Alfonso in Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte, I imagine most of the weather-beaten fans were unable to speak in complete sentences last night after the bitter defeat:
But, and this is the most admirable thing about Cubs fans, is that they are able to spring back to life and not be discouraged. Any other fan base after last night's reality check would have blown their collective lids off, but all the Cubs fans I've spoken to are sticking to Mrs. Lovett's wisdom and calmly whispering "Wait" until tonight!
Many fans, I'm sure, have already run the gamut of emotion, rending their flesh, beating their breast, and lamenting their fate. That sub-section of fans can go sit with Elettra from Mozart's Idomeneo and descend into complete and utter madness:
And still, we sit, we wait, and we anticipate the game tonight, where we hope that fate will be shining upon us and granting us the happy ending that is afforded in most operas, especially Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, where the inhabitants of the opera let loose and revel in the fact that this crazy day is over and love has won!
So I join with Handel, Mozart, Sondheim, and all the greats when I say: Buona Fortuna, Cubbies!
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