Commentary on baseball, the Mets in particular, from the perspective of a professional orchestral musician is what one usually finds on this site. This particular post, though, will focus on a colleague and close friend of mine and the ways in which he was a great “teammate.”
My orchestra has lost a great musician and colleague. Rich Dallessio was a freelance oboist who played for numerous orchestras here in New York, most notably the New York City Ballet. He was also a frequent substitute player with us at the Metropolitan Opera. Rich battled liver cancer for almost an entire year; he passed away last week.
Substitute players at the MET and other professional music ensembles, including Broadway shows, are like bench players: they are called on in a pinch and often don’t have a lot of time to prepare for the gig. Veteran ballplayers often shine when given those opportunities, as did Rich.
If a regular MET musician called in sick to a rehearsal or performance at the last minute, Rich could be relied upon to answer his cellphone quickly and rearrange his schedule in order to be of assistance. Once he got to the MET, he would play whatever part was needed, without any fuss, making for a seamless performance that put everyone around him at ease, not the least of whom was the Orchestra Manager who is responsible for “fielding” a full orchestra every night!
Rich was an exceptionally fine player and an inspiring musician. He also had many years of experience playing our somewhat unique repertoire, thereby making him an especially valuable commodity to the wind section of the MET.
In addition, he was, hands-down, the finest sight-reader I have ever met. I remember one performance in particular that had all of us in the orchestra, the conductor included, in awe.
Some years ago, our regular English horn player called in sick to a performance of Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schattten. Rich was asked to come in to sight-read the part for the performance, and he bravely took up the challenge.
All of Strauss’s operas feature extremely challenging virtuosic orchestral writing, often in very unusual keys. Beyond the inherent difficulty of the part itself was the fact that it had been many years since this lesser-known and less frequently performed opera had been presented at the MET. Rich had not played any of the rehearsals of the opera that season nor had he played any previous performances in the run.
The entire night, Rich was his usual unflappable, solid, reliable self. He never lost his place, which is remarkable in and of itself, but he also played the numerous solos (which he was hearing for the first time as he was playing them!) with sensitivity and nuance. It was a stunning performance that many of us in the wind section still speak of to this day.
Even as a sub, Rich certainly had the chops for solo English horn and solo oboe playing. When he found himself in the Principal chair, there was nothing apologetic or timid about his playing whatsoever. And yet, he could just as easily assume the role of Second Oboe and deftly defer to the Principal player, matching pitch, note lengths, volume, and style without ever a word being exchanged between the two players.
I know this because he played Second Oboe to me. And I played Second Oboe to him as well.
And that’s because Rich knew the joy that being a part—any part—of a winning team can be. It really didn’t matter to him where he sat or what part he played. He was in it for the team. “Put me in coach! I’m ready to play today.”
He was a utility player on the order of former Mets Kelly Johnson or Justin Turner. And, as in baseball, a player who can field more than one position can be of tremendous value, especially if he/she can perform well in the clutch. Rich was that guy.
Rich loved being part of a team. And he loved playing music. And he had an infectious laugh. I loved when all of those things came together—which they often did.
I’ll never forget the times we both played onstage in the Don Giovanni bandas together. Mozart’s Don Giovanni calls for small instrumental ensembles—bandas—in each of the opera’s two acts. The score calls for two onstage oboes in both acts. The musicians appear onstage and in costume and, for that reason, they are often involved at least peripherally in the staging.
Rich was involved in playing the Don Giovanni bandas just about every time the opera was performed at the MET. The other onstage oboe assignment usually fell to a colleague of mine, but in 1997, I lucked into my first and (so far at least) only run of performances of Don Giovanni in which I did not play in the pit but had the pleasure of playing onstage in costume along with Rich.
It was always a delight to play with Rich: his sound had a spinning, vibrant quality that reminded me of a really good coloratura soprano—Judith Blegen, Kathleen Battle, Barbara Bonney. It was a sound that was very similar to what I aim for myself, actually. That’s probably one of the reasons it was always such a pleasure playing with him and why blending with each other’s sound was so effortless.
These performances, then, were a treat for me, musically. But that was only the half of it. The fun of being in costume and part of the stage action was never lost on Rich, even after many performances of this work. Once I had gotten a few performances under my belt and became more comfortable onstage, we both had even more fun.
Near the end of Act I, Giovanni is hosting a party at which many instrumentalists are playing, e.g., the banda. Giovanni dances with Zerlina and leads her into an adjoining room to try to seduce her. She screams for help and pandemonium ensues about the time our music has ended at which time we were instructed to react in surprise and exit stage right.
While we always followed our stage directions, it seemed that with every performance, Rich and I took a little more poetic license, if you will, and made more of our very little time onstage as court musicians than we had in the previous performance. Our looks of astonishment became ever more exaggerated—wide-eyed, mouths agape. We played off of each other: he looked left, I looked right, each of us feigning an intense curiosity as to what had prompted Zerlina’s cries. While the rest of the musicians had shrugged their shoulders in a bored manner and shuffled offstage, he and I pantomimed exaggerated and extended inquisitiveness about the kerfuffle resulting in our being the last banda members to exit the stage.
I don’t think this was apparent to anyone else, and the Stage Manager certainly didn’t need to come after us with a hook, but we definitely had some great times and some hearty laughs, channeling our inner thespians for those two nights every week when that opera was being performed that season.
Rich was a mirth-filled, down-to-earth, kind and generous person. As fine as his oboe-playing was, he was an even finer human being. He will be missed at the MET, at the NYC Ballet and other ensembles in which he played, and by all of his many students to whom he devoted much time and energy.
I’m the proud friend of several prolific baseball writers. In the past, I’ve referenced here the fine work of Greg Prince and Jason Fry My seat for Mets games is in Section 318–right in front of the WOR-710 Mets broadcast booth. Over the years, the fact that I always have the Mets Booth radio guys in my ear during games–and often pantomime my reactions to their always insightful and entertaining commentary–and that I regularly trade tweets with “the immortal” Chris Majkowski during games, have resulted in a friendship with the radio personnel, including sportscaster and author Howie Rose.
Mark Newman does not write about the Mets exclusively, but he has spent a fair amount of time at Citi Field. He has been a longtime Hall of Fame voting member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He is the recipient of the National Magazine Award for General Excellence. He has worked twenty-five World Series for Major League Baseball. It was through his position with MLB’s Advanced Media–for which he is currently Enterprise Editor–that I got to know him. Mark was a guru/”cheerleader”/problem-solver for all of us novice fans starting to blog about our teams for the first time. He was most helpful in providing guidance, encouragement, and helpfulf feedback to this Mets blogger. Since starting Perfect Pitch, I’ve had a chance to share some memorable games with Mark at Citi Field, and he and his wife Lisa have attended a few Opening Night Galas at the Metropolitan Opera as well.
Suffice to say, Mark has been around baseball and is accustomed to posing questions to ballplayers.
But for almost as long as I’ve known him, when he’s not involved in a specific work assignment for MLB, Mark’s been meeting one-on-one with players in pursuit of their answers to a single query: given the opportunity to cite a single at-bat as the most memorable of your career, which one would you choose?
He’s talked to current players, players who retired long ago, and Hall of Famers. He’s met them at batting practice, at foundation fundraisers, on golf courses, over lunch, dinner, or a cup of coffee–any number of scenarios that afforded the time and place for a bit of introspective reflection, “off the record” and away from the player’s team, his family, and the public.
The resulting answers, Mark found, were intriguing, fascinating, and quite often, they came as a surprise. A publisher had the same reaction. A book, entitled Diamonds from the Dugout, envisioned and written by Mark–with encouragement from Brooks Robinson–is the happy result. It came out just this week.
Fans, the media, statisticians, bloggers, and baseball historians have time-honored criteria for quantifying or qualifying an individual athlete’s performance relative to his peers. They are also afforded their respective platforms for self-cultivated “highlight reels” of their own selection. Some of the crowning points shared with Mark by these ballplayers might be seen as relatively unremarkable, from a strictly baseball point of view; what is noteworthy is the reason why this is the hit selected by the player himself and given its own chapter in Mark’s book.
The subject of each chapter is certainly a measure of athletic accomplishment, but more often a player’s selection had more to do with the context in which the hit was made. Mark skillfully weaves together the specifics of the play with anecdotal information from the player. Reading these vignettes, one can easily visualize the whimsical grin playing across the face of a player or the slight misting up of a player’s eyes involved in the hit’s memory and his retelling a story that, for that player at least, has obviously become the stuff of myth or legend. The inclusion of each player’s “back story”, the opportunity for him to “set the stage” and to add personal embellishments to his saga: this is what makes the book fascinating reading.
The book is a veritable Who’s Who of baseball royalty, but as a Mets fan, you’ll particularly enjoy reading chapters devoted to David Wright, Mike Piazza, Ron Swoboda, Mookie Wilson, Darryl Strawberry, Rusty Staub, Ed Kranepool, and Ralph Kiner. I particularly liked Staub’s tale involving a multiple-hit game as a young player for the Astros in May of 1967. The legendary Ted Williams was in the house–not as a player, but as an award presenter. Williams had scouted Staub in high school for the Red Sox, and on that day, he witnessed Staub go 3 for 3 with a run scored in the 6-2 victory. Staub recalls that his efforts that day garnered words of high praise from Williams that he remembers vividly to this day, “You’re gonna be OK, kid.”
Conversely, Mets fans will enjoy Chipper “Larry” Jones’ favorite hit for the mere fact that it did not take place against Mets pitching. Considering the plethora of killer at-bats inflicted by him upon my team, I was relieved to find that his chapter does not constitute a nostalgic recounting of a nadir of Mets family lore.
It’s a hard time for Mets fans: we had high expectations and low return this season. Meanwhile the team across town has powered its way to the ALDS. Trust me, there’s no better time to get lost in a book, if you’re a Mets fan. And I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Mark’s book today!
UPDATE: The hardcover edition of the book is once again in stock at Amazon. For shoppers in the New York City area, Barnes & Noble stores expect to have the hardcover available in its tai-state area stores and for free delivery to select area zip codes by Wednesday, October 11th.
As of this writing, Amazon is temporarily out of stock of the hardcover edition of the book. However, it is available on Kindle for instant download. The hardcover edition is currently available on Barnes & Noble’s website , and it is also available as a download for Nook.
For more information about Mark Newman and his book, please check out his website as well.
Unparalleled by any other sport, baseball is a game of numbers. Of statistics. Of quantifiable accomplishments.
In music and other art forms, measures of success or achievement are far more subjective. There will never be a “greatest” or “best” soprano, symphony, or even composer.
With the exception of a few asterisks or footnotes, when an outstanding baseball achievement is made, the record book is immediately updated, and the recipient and his feat are honored. At least until the next player comes along and breaks that record.
The quantifiable aspect of the sport affords an auspicious status to players that is not available to artists. In sports, one can be considered the reigning champion of one or numerous particular feats: the very “best”.
One particular feat happened at Citi Field last Thursday night: Outfielder Yoenis Céspedes became the first player ever to hit a ball into the third deck of the ballpark. Anyone watching the 2013 Home Run Derby portion of the All-Star Game festivities will remember those bombs hit by Céspedes, including one that drilled the glass exterior of the Acela Club in Left Field. While Thursday’s home run was calculated to have been hit 466 feet–which constituted a tie with Giancarlo Stanton for the furthest hit fair ball in Citi Field–it was an unprecedented feat because of the sheer height of the home run. The surprise on the fans’ faces in the third deck–where the ball landed–speaks volumes: no one sitting in those seats ever expects to go home with a souvenir. Not even from batting practice.
Earlier in the history of the franchise, an equally impressive bomb was hit–and immortalized. In the third game of the 1969 season, outfielder Tommie Agee socked a ball that landed halfway up in Section 48 in the left Upper Deck at Shea Stadium. Eventually, the spot where the ball was hit was painted. Unfortunately, during the demolition of Shea Stadium, the marker was removed and was sold to a private collector.
The stadiums that have chosen to place physical markers where players have hit home runs are numerous:
Fenway Park boasts its singular “red seat” where, on June 9, 1946, Ted Williams hit a homer–Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21–for a recorded distance of 502 feet.
Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia at one time had markers for home runs hit into the left-field upper deck by Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt. A home run by a non-Phillie, Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates, even warranted a marker there: a yellow star with a black “S” in the middle.
RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., boasted numerous seats painted white–against the prevailing sea of yellow seats–denoting places where Frank Howard, a.k.a., “The Washington Monument” and “The Capital Punisher”, hit home runs during his tenure with the Washington Senators.
Baltimore’s Camden Yards has countless markers embedded into the pavement for those homers hit onto Eutaw Street. But in this digital age, they even have an online “Eutaw Street Home Run Tracker” where one can watch the arc of all 85 homers (at last count), that has landed there. Two orange seats reside there as well: the first was installed in honor of Cal Ripken Jr.,’s record-breaking home run on July 15th, 1993, in which he passed Ernie Banks for the most home runs ever hit by a shortstop. The second orange seat marks the location of Eddie Murray’s 500th career home run of September 6th, 1996.
Camden Yards’ predecessor–Memorial Stadium–commemorated Frank Robinson’s monumental homer of May 18, 1966, which sailed 451 feet over rows of bleachers and out of the ballpark. This feat was commemorated by an orange banner over the left-field bleachers with the single word “here” printed on it.
Houston’s Jimmy Wynn and Doug Rader each hit homers into the left field upper deck at the Astrodome in 1970. The home runs were hit a week apart and to the same row in the upper “Gold Level” with just a few seats separating them. The Astros had an artist paint the seats to mark them. They remained in place until 1985 when the seats were refurbished and repainted to match the blue, red, orange and yellow of the Astros rainbow jerseys (which ironically they stopped using just two seasons later). The seat locations were remarked during the renovation.
Obviously, there is precedent for honoring a ballpark’s history, long balls hit by franchise and non-franchise players alike. Melanie Spector, my daughter and companion in Section 318 of Citi Field for practically every home game, has come up with an idea about honoring Céspedes’s third-deck bomb. She’s even created an online petition to try to make this idea became a reality.
According to WOR’s Howie Rose, it took twenty-five years and some inquiries from Rose himself to see Tommie Agee’s marker get painted. With your help, perhaps Yoenis–and Mets fans–won’t have to wait nearly as long to see this epic home run get an appropriate commemoration at Citi Field.
Please sign the petition, send it to friends, and post it on social media, using the hashtag #PaintItYellow! You can find it here.
Most of the time, my day job–a seasonal one–does not overlap the baseball season by more than a month or so on either end. Citi Field in April is often freezing, so any disappointment I have about missing games here and there because of performances I must play at the Met is mitigated by at least knowing that I’ll be warm and dry in the pit that day or evening. With “meaningless” games in September being pretty much a Queens hallmark, and with the start of school for my daughter and the resumption of work for me demanding our attention, being obligated to perform at the Met and having to miss a game in September has often been something of a relief.
This year, it’s different. Way different.
Once it was determined that Citi Field would see its first ever post-season game this past Monday, I was both ecstatic and crushed. While there can be some flexibility in my schedule, Monday’s opera was Wagner Tannhaüser with Maestro James Levine conducting. It had probably been scheduled as such five years ago.
As accommodating and sympathetic as our Orchestra Manager is in general and to this dilemma in particular, he basically told me that my “team” needed me at the Met. As disappointed as I was, I reminded myself that–just as with relief pitchers–fine musicians are “specialists” at what we do: not just anyone can be “called up” to replace us, even with advance notice.
Like all Mets fans, I was thrilled that the Mets beat Kershaw in Game 1 in Los Angeles. For me, the win took on even more significance: I now knew that I would be able to attend at least ONE post-season game at Citi Field–Game 4 of the series.
I’m glad I was there, but they didn’t win and the series would not be decided in four games. A return to Los Angeles and an additional game would be required. And, wouldn’t you know it, Game 5 will be played while I am involved in playing–you guessed it: Tannhaüser at the Met.
As on Monday night, the curtain for tonight’s performance of Tannhaüser is 7PM. The three acts with intermissions (during which I can find out what’s going on at Dodger Stadium), total about four and a half hours.
I couldn’t be at Citi Field for Game 3, and I cannot be near a television tonight for Game 5. That said, a repeat of last Monday’s performance–both baritone Peter Mattei’s heart-rending portrayal of Wolfram von Eschenbach and the Mets stellar offense and victory–will be most welcome nice again.
When I hear Mattei’s meltingly gorgeous rendition of O du, mein holder Abendstern (Ode to the Evening Star) in Scene II of Act III, I’ll be offering my own inward prayer that there will be a star shining over Chavez Ravine to guide my Mets to victory and a trip home to play Chicago–whether I’m in attendance for Game 1 of the NLCS at Citi Field or not!
Let’s Go Mets!
Ideally, the New York Mets would learn a lesson from last night’s public relations fiasco. I doubt that will happen, but it’s possible.
Unconfirmed news of Wilmer Flores’ and Zach Wheeler’s imminent departure from the Mets and their subsequent replacement in the form of the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez spread like wildfire on social media during the game–in which Wilmer Flores was playing. If you’re a Mets fan, you’ve caught wind of most aspects of this farce, but here’s the latest in case you had not heard: Carlos Gomez is rumored, repeat RUMORED to have been traded to the Houston Astros.
But don’t quote me on Twitter. Please.
Look, anyone who’s spent any amount of time on social media has penned at least one post or Tweet that he or she regrets and has had to then suffer whatever subsequent fallout came of the impropriety. “Tweet and delete” or suffer the consequences should be the admonition, I suppose.
But if you are a business or professional organization, just as damning are the social media posts that you do NOT make.
In the aftermath of last night’s widespread misinformation and the toll it took, a whole lot of outrage and fingerpointing ensued–at reporters, at social media itself, and at the Brewers. I contend that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the New York Mets themselves.
No doubt there were leaks from insiders who should’ve known better than to open their mouths just yet. Perhaps overzealous reporters and bloggers enthusiastic to be first with a story neglected to underscore the “pending physicals” part of the narrative. Perhaps exuberant fans were just as impetuous in swiftly retweeting the “news” of the not-quite done deal. And perhaps Brewers management jumped the gun in informing Gomez himself that he had been traded.
One could even argue that Terry Collins was culpable in the debacle by not sending Geren or someone else to find out what the heck was going on off the field, what with his shortstop crying on the field and the fans cheering wildly for the same player’s next plate appearance, even though said player had not started a game since the previous Thursday and, thus far in the game, had garnered only a single and a strikeout.
The fact that Collins later stated that he had been oblivious to his player’s emotions and the strange crowd reaction furthers my belief that Terry Collins’ knowledge and management acumen are incommensurate with those required for his position.
However, in this particular case, I actually felt badly for Collins. Terry Collins had been “had” just as much as his player..
Through their mis-, or rather, non-communication, management essentially hung Collins out to dry: by not alerting him to the viral communications that were sure to reach his players at some point during the game–communication that they had to know might very well engender a reaction by the unsuspecting Flores himself; by not contacting Collins to request that he pull Flores since the trade was at the very least a remote possibility and the possibility of pulling out a win at this point in the game seemed highly unlikely anyway; by not contacting Collins immediately requesting Flores’ removal from the game the moment that it became obvious that everyone at Citi Field knew what had supposedly transpired except for Flores himself, thereby at least affording him the opportunity to process the information in the the clubhouse instead of under the scrutiny of millions of television viewers; and by making Terry fend for himself in the post-game interview, causing him to appear more bollixed than usual in his nightly interrogations by the media.
Leaks happen. In sports organizations, in big business, in the White House. Any expectations an organization might entertain of silencing loose lips entirely are probably delusional. And, in fact, business leaders and managers have been known to intentionally float rumors themselves to test the response, drum up interest, or to otherwise serve their own interests.
Reporters are often leaked information. In the absence of verification, each reporter must then choose whether to disseminate the message immediately or to wait for confirmation. This is nothing new.
What IS relatively new is the speed with which any message may be disseminated and the sheer volume of disseminators of that message. Some reporters and bloggers possess thousands of followers, and each one of those followers has the technical capabilities to further disseminate the message just as expediently to his or her own cadre of followers.
For those of us of a certain age, a certain Faberge shampoo commercial comes to mind:
For better or worse, we live in an age where a message may go viral regardless of its validity, its decency, or the number of people who may agree with its sentiments.
Smart business owners and managers are aware of and respect social media’s influence and are pro-active in the forming of their own narrative…or counteracting a negative one. One cannot simply sit back and blame social media; businesses must now work actively not only to circumvent misinformation and negative publicity but they must also work to ENGAGE those so passionate about their product, in this case the New York Mets.
A public statement by the Mets, indicating that the deal was not in place, disseminated to those reporters and bloggers, could have squelched the rampant inaccuracies. Or, at the very least, if the Mets did not want to go public during the game, they should’ve been proactive in alerting the unsuspecting player and manager about the possible trade as well as the out-of-control social media messages. It would have been the only decent thing to do.
The Mets’ lack of communication meant that the crowd at Citi Field was privy to what would prove to be misinformation, unrefuted, that Flores had been traded. How shocking it must have been to Flores to come to the realization that thousands of people had known about what, had it transpired as reported, would have represented a profound change in his professional and personal life. And he and his manager had been the last two individuals to know.
Mets management’s offense last night was an act of omission, not commission, but as such was just as heinous.
Mets management’s silence resulted in embarrassing and humiliating two of its valued employees in a very public way.
“It’s a whole new world,” some would say. “Who would’ve known that something could’ve gone viral like that?” It’s not new, and many have experienced first-hand social media’s potential for negative fallout. There are many cautionary tales out there–businesses large and small that have made missteps as well as individuals publicly shamed on social media for a contentious tweet or a public action, sometimes to the point of the individual having to go into hiding. A certain dentist that shot a beloved lion comes to mind.
Not only are there lessons to be learned from others’ mistakes, but businesses and professional organizations are now investing time and money to learn how best to harness social media’s power for good as well as how to limit its potential for adverse messages. It is not uncommon for a company to hire additional personnel to serve as a social media team or for companies to hire consultants to coach existing public relations personnel on employing this method of audience engagement.
One does not even need to hire a consultant, though. Advice and detailed blunders abound on the Internet.
Here are just a few relevant articles I found in a quick Google search:
Social media experts will tell you: having a social media presence is not just about promoting your product. And, believe it or not, it’s not just about having a megaphone through which to refute inaccuracies (although that tool could definitely have been employed to the Mets’ benefit last night about this time.)
It’s about ENGAGING your audience or customers.
I say “audience” because I am a contributor to the Met Orchestra’s Social Media Team and, as such, have worked diligently with my colleagues to generate interest and enthusiasm about our ensemble as well as to create a DIALOGUE with our listeners and fans in the creation and upkeep of our website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.
Those who would blame reporters and/or social media for Wilson Flores’ tears miss the point: generating buzz about the team and getting fans excited and engaged and joining in the conversation on potential trades or other team or player news is a good thing.
It was decidedly not a good thing that the New York Mets either vastly underestimated the power of social media or had heretofore been blissfully ignorant of its immediacy and power. In this day and age, it is simply not enough to wait until the next business day for a carefully crafted “statement” to be issued. All the Mets would have needed to do was tweet a simple reminder that the deal was in fact not yet done and something to the effect of, “We appreciate your interest and your enthusiasm, fans! We will verify the trade here on Twitter just as soon as it happens! Stay TUNED!” They could have gone even further and generated their own attention-getting hashtag, e.g., “#MetsMarket”.
Face it, Mets owners and management, you blew it: you were silent when you should’ve provided some clarification–to your fans, to your manager, and to Wilmer Flores. Well before the news came that there would in fact be no trade, you had managed to make Mets fans feel positively crummy about a transaction that we would otherwise have had every reason for which to be ecstatic. Following a game that the team had won and in which Lucas Duda had homered three times, your inability or unwillingness to respond appropriately to the situation that had transpired had managed to effectively suck all of the “feel good” out the evening for a lot of us.
Wilmer Flores was not the only one feeling miserable at the end of the evening.
“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” –Nathaniel Hawthorne
Tonight’s the night all Metsdom has been waiting for: the Major League debut of top prospect, pitcher Noah Syndergaard. He arrives on the Major League stage at Wrigley Field accompanied by much fanfare and already in possession of a nickname: “Thor”.
The genesis of the nickname was Syndergaard’s Halloween costume this past October, a photo of which he tweeted and which was then retweeted widely. Naturally, the blogosphere is having great fun with the nickname and its associations with the Marvel Comics superhero and subsequent movie of the same name as well as the character’s original incarnation in Nordic mythology as the God of Thunder.
However, as an opera lover, “Thor”, conjures up something different to me. At the mention of “Thor”, I hear softly murmuring arpeggios in the cellos. Then, I hear the Violas joining in. Then the Second Violins. And, finally, the First Violins. The undulating sextuplets I hear in my mind are the magical introduction to Thor and his sorcery as written by Wagner in his opera Das Rheingold.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
First, I should mention Wagner’s god has a slightly different name: Donner. The Old German equivalent of the Norse “Thor” is “Donar”. Donar’s name day, as it were, became Donnerstag “Donar’s day”, otherwise known to us English-language speakers as “Thursday”.
But I digress.German composer Richard Wagner spent years composing a Ring Cycle comprised of four operas, based upon Donner and other gods of Norse mythology. The first opera, Das Rheingold, is performed as one act–with no intermissions. The four scenes of the opera meld seamlessly into one another, and there is no break in the music or drama from the beginning until the end, about two hours and forty minutes later.
During the opera, a lot of action has taken place in this amount of time. The viewer has watched the Rheinmaidens extol the virtues of their gold, a character steal the gold from them, a god and his accomplices descend to that character’s underworld to claim the gold for themselves, two giants subsequently lay claim to the gold, and finally, one giant bludgeoning his giant brother in order to seize his brother’s share of the gold. Oh, and before the grisly murder, there is an appearance by Erda, the earth goddess, who forecasts gloom and doom for those who are consumed by this gold (more specifically, a ring forged from said gold, but you get the idea.)
Towards the very end of the opera, there is an exhilarating moment for Donner, a role for bass-baritone. After all of the mayhem and madness following a goddess coming up out of the ground unannounced and a bloody fratricide, Donner decides that it is time to, literally, clear the air. The god of thunder and storms conjures up a thunderstorm meant to dispel the fog and general discontent.
Donner’s glorious invocation to the heavens, summoning the cleansing mists, is stirringly answered by four French horns, playing in unison. The ensuing winds and storm rage as the string arpeggios morph into an ascending scale, by the whole orchestra, gradually increasing in intensity and dynamic until, [ding], Donner wields his hammer to dispel the storm and, how operatic, a rainbow then magically appears.
I happen to really like this video interpretation of the scene, set to an *audio recording of the opera excerpt:
*Eberhard Wächter with the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Georg Solti.
It’s a magical moment in music.
I don’t know what kind of magic Mr. Syndergaard might wield on the mound this evening or in his starts to come. But this optimistic Mets fan can’t help but hope for signs of a dominating talent.
God-given or otherwise.
We are fourteen games in. Grandstanding seems oh so premature.
But can I just say this? How great is it to put on one’s Mets gear these days and be greeted in the grocery store, on the street, or at work with a smile and a, “How about those METS?!”
“…and I pit- y any- one who’s not a Met to- night…”
“…such a pretty pitch, such a pretty hit, such a pretty steal, such a pretty streak!”
Puts a little swagger back in one’s step…just in time for the upcoming Subway Series.