April 18, 2005


Take Me Out to the Opera: In Chicago, a Fan Is a Fan (BRUCE WEBER, 4/16/05, NY Times)

On Tuesday night, between Acts I and II of "Die Walküre" at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Plácido Domingo was backstage talking about the Chicago Cubs.

"I wish they could have more satisfaction," he said.

The great tenor was speaking from the vortex of a rare cultural confluence. Over the last week, the Cubs opened their home season at Wrigley Field, and the city's Lyric Opera was presenting Richard Wagner's four-opera "Ring des Nibelungen," which meant that two of the world's most fervid fan bases were simultaneously encamped on opposite sides of the Chicago River. (The Cubs left town on Tuesday; the "Ring" concludes on Saturday night.)

As Siegmund, Mr. Domingo was fresh from a standing ovation from the Ringheads, as the most obsessive Wagnerites somewhat sheepishly call themselves.

But as he was preparing to die heroically in the second act, what came to his mind was the night two Octobers ago when an oblivious fan at Wrigley Field interfered with a foul fly ball and cost the Cubs a shot at the World Series, the umpteenth disappointment for a franchise that has not won a championship since 1908. Not even Wagner, Mr. Domingo acknowledged, breaks your heart like the Cubs. "It makes me so sad," said Mr. Domingo, who is actually a Yankee rooter. "It's a much longer journey for them."

Perhaps it's a stretch to insist that a passion for baseball and a passion for opera are related, though the link is documented. For years, after all, Robert Merrill sang the national anthem at Yankee Stadium. But as Mr. Domingo intimated, the link seems most intense in Chicago, where the ache for a baseball victory is palpable (the White Sox are virtually as hapless as the Cubs), where theater, the symphony and the opera are virulent inspirers of local pride, and where a recent newspaper poll asking whether sports or the arts were more thrilling ended in a dead heat.

However, Siegmund, being European, threw like a girl.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 18, 2005 8:02 AM

Since epic tragedy and opera scenarios go hand-in-hand, someone's going to write one someday about Steve Bartman and the Cubs' 2003 playoffs.

Posted by: John at April 18, 2005 1:14 PM

Hey OJ, did you know that at the start of the season the Cubs were a cumulative 1,206 games out of first since 1945?

Posted by: Rick T. at April 18, 2005 1:18 PM


That is a sixty year comparison against the best team every year--is it especially bad

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2005 1:26 PM

Rick - If the average team goes 81-81 and the average winner goes 101-61, then over 60 years the average team will be 1,200 games out of first. So the Cubs are spot-on mediocre.

Posted by: pj at April 18, 2005 1:28 PM

The White Sox are not "hapless" Sox fans just don't make a cult out of losing and team incompetence the way they do elsewhere. (Except Disco Demolition Night, of course. Now there's an event worthy of celebration that the Northside could never equal with all their Bartmans and Billy Goats and corked bats and Lou Brock trades, even in their dreams.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 18, 2005 1:31 PM

Maybe those Wagnerians can't throw baseballs, but they can throw their spears, no?

Posted by: ratbert at April 18, 2005 3:05 PM