My First Opera – The Summer King
I’ve listened to and performed a lot of classical music. I’ve sung along to many pop songs. I have jammed out to 80’s rock with my parents. My sister has even locked me in a room with her and forced me to listen to musical soundtracks over and over again. But even with all of that music in my life, I have never heard or even thought about attending an opera.
So, last weekend when my mother asked me if I wanted to go to an opera about baseball, I was a bit hesitant. I tried to talk my friends into joining me, but they told me they would rather stay home and study on a Saturday night than go to an opera. Even one about baseball.
So, I took a chance and went to the opera without them.
Before I went, I did some quick research and discovered that the author of this work, “The Summer King,” was Daniel Sonenberg, a Jewish writer from New York. In his own blog, (I “liked” it because it had zero “likes”) he describes how his opera is about the Negro Leagues and a player named Josh Gibson.
Although Gibson is arguably one of the best players of all time, he was denied entrance into the Major Leagues due to his race. Gibson paved the way for players like Jackie Robinson in integrating Major League Baseball, yet he died without any major recognition of his greatness, essentially making his life story perfect for a tragic opera.
When I arrived at the Opera House in downtown Detroit, I was surprised to see such a huge pit orchestra. Before this, I thought operas involved mostly singing. Although I was not wrong, I discovered that it was almost hard to hear the singing over the sound of the orchestra, demonstrating the great importance a pit orchestra plays in an opera.
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Before the show started, a representative of the Opera House came on stage and personally described what an honor it was to have this opera in Detroit, while at the same time welcoming Josh Gibson’s grandson in the audience. As I heard this, it struck me that this really was a true story, and while I’m not sure I would ever hurry back to another opera, it was easy to recognize the message as both meaningful and powerful. From Josh Gibson’s early death to his grandson sitting in the theater, I really felt the tragedy of this work.