Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Opera Wednesday

I grew up in the Boston area and have always been a Red Sox fan. As a kid, I went to many ball games at Fenway Park and always found it to be a magical place. Of course, part of being a Red Sox fan is experiencing gut-wrenching disappointments, albeit, interspersed with moments of elation.” -- Richard Maltz, composer, Bambino.

And such is the opening notes for the recent South Carolina performances (in Aiken and Columbia) in the Month of May of Mr. Maltz's Bambino, a short (30 minute) one-act opera that's a work of fiction that was conceived ten years ago, but was made different following October 27, 2004.

Bambino starts innocently set above the Green Monster, yes, the well-beloved left-field wall that has a reason for being nearly ten metres tall near Lansdowne Street, with John Dooley as Buck (a young Red Sox player, ironic considering a top prospect currently in Pawtucket after having his first cup of coffee was Jackie Bradley Jnr) and Kelsey Harrison as Molly (his girlfriend) walk into Fenway, thinking this was to be the time the Red Sox finally would make it. Once Buck walks into the locker room, the story then focuses on Molly's fears and the staging moves to the box seats at Fenway, in a section that would be normally for players' wives and girlfriends.

While this takes place, a montage of famous moments from the past (all real life, unlike this opera!) are shown, from the story of the Curse (we know of course legend has it that “No, No, Nannette” was being funded resulting in the firesale) to the plays of the past. The most famous moments of those shown are the ones from 1975 (Game 6) but little, if any, reference to going between Buckner's legs or what is known as the Boston Massacre (1978 – Nike had to pull shirts thanks to Джоха́р and Тамерла́н Царна́ев).

Molly (dressed well for the event) is met by a few fans (and note the programs come from 2007), while in this game setting, Buck, in 21st-century home uniform, is patrolling the famed left-field area near the fence. After a few errors, he finds the Red Sox down two after just an inning. What happens is he is confronted by a ghost, George Herman Ruth himself (Kevin Eckhard). After a disappointing K in the inning he batted, the situation turns ahead to the end of the game, down two runs, two on, two out in the bottom of the ninth.

Suspiciously I see there is a gangster on top of the Green Monster. This sets the stage for the dramatic ending of this too-short operetta. Buck is up to bat in the situation and after two strikes are set (with appropriate recitatives), the dream of a big hit is there. Naturally, in the dramatic settings of theatre, you go unrealistic of the modern game. Buck hits a long fly ball and runs across the bases, and just as he is about reach the plate, and the relay, a few shots are fired (from the Monster, no less), reportedly trying to keep the Curse alive. Buck slides home but is killed from the gangster's fire. He's safe. The Red Sox win.

Poor Molly grieves while her beau lays dying the team had finally won. Thus was another chapter, legend says, the fate of Buck George dying while the curse ends, or so it goes in the story. Considering the Curse of Ben Tillman here for a long time that ended in 2002 (women's athletics), what else could you say? Makes you wonder how the opera was rewritten after the 2004.

But in actuality, as I learned, the real Curse isn't at Fenway. It's across town on the grounds of Boston University, at Nickerson Field, originally Boston's National League stadium (Boston was a two-team town until the end of 1952; Boston's National League team moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and to its present location in 1966 – note too that two other two-team towns were down to one as St. Louis and Philadelphia also lost their American League teams, the present Baltimore and Oakland teams). In recent years, teams that called Nickerson home have folded – Boston University's gridiron team, and a few women's professional footballers have failed. Could that be the true place where the Curse still stands, from the time in 1935 when George Herman Ruth came back to Boston for a curtain call in the NL and retired shortly into the season?
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