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Take Me Out to the Opera at Nationals Park

Opera and hot dogs — not exactly two things that automatically go together.

But for those who can’t make it to the Kennedy Center for the opening of “The Barber of Seville— on Saturday night, then heading to Nationals Park (and maybe chowing down on a few tasty dogs) could be the next best bet. That’s when the Washington National Opera will sponsor its annual “Opera in the Outfield— event at the baseball stadium, showing a free simulcast of the caper-filled opera on the ballpark’s huge high-definition television screen.

It’s all the excitement of going to the opera, only the audience gets to wear jeans.

“This really is the perfect venue if you are saying, I think I’d like to try an opera but I’m not sure,’— said Neil Alpert, WNO’s director of institutional relations. “We’re able to use this opportunity to introduce people to opera.—

The opera company began providing free simulcasts of its performances five years ago, when it screened “Porgy and Bess— on the National Mall. Last year, the company moved the annual event to Nationals Park, allowing the screenings to be shown in a contained space, with more room and additional amenities, Alpert said.

Seats in the ballpark will be open for guests, but Alpert said he expects most of the 20,000-plus people expected to attend will bring a blanket and relax in the outfield. About 5,000 of those headed to the park on Saturday will be military members and their families, as the company partnered with the Armed Forces Foundation to help bring opera to the troops, Alpert said.

“It’s the best screen you’re ever going to get; it’s got great sound,— Alpert said. In addition, “How many people ever have the opportunity to walk and sit on a major league field?—

Patrons can also reserve a “Picnic at the Park— on the opera’s Web site, a picnic meal that includes fruit, cheese, dessert and wine for two in a reusable cooler bag that can be picked up at the stadium.

Several Members of Congress helped organize the event, Alpert noted, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Reps. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Don Manzullo (R-Ill.). Most are expected to attend either the show’s premiere at the Kennedy Center or the simulcast, Alpert added.

At the ballpark, the emphasis of the night will be introducing opera to a new audience, including children. Before the simulcast begins, there will be a slew of family-friendly activities, including a chance to meet Miss District of Columbia Jennifer Corey, photo opportunities with the Red M&M’s character, a screening of the Warner Bros. cartoon “The Rabbit of Seville— and a T-shirt toss. (It’s a safe bet that none of those activities will be at the Kennedy Center.)

“For us, this is all about family entertainment. This is supposed to be for all generations,— Alpert said. “What winds up happening is that even during the performances, there are kids running around, throwing a ball. They’re not distracting at all, and even if they’re not watching the opera, they’re being exposed to the opera.—

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