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Opera in the Outfield returns to Nationals Park on Saturday

The Washington National Opera's Opera in the Outfield simulcast is set for what should be a cool, sunny spring Saturday at Nationals Park. For couples looking for a spring date night or families looking for a way to see the opera without springing for a babysitter, there may be no better answer than a little "Show Boat" under the stars.

More than 12,000 people attended last September's simulcast of "Don Giovanni," and this rare spring installment might prove even more popular: Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's "Show Boat" is an American musical. Of Francesca Zambello's production, Post classical music critic Anne Midgette wrote: " 'Show Boat' is about race relations, but it’s also about the ups and downs of long-term romantic relationships — a welcome change from most musicals, which tend to follow romance just as far as 'happily ever after.' ”

The Washington National Opera's Opera in the Outfield simulcast drew about 12,000 people last fall. (Photo by Scott Suchman)

There are plenty of advantages to taking in the opera al fresco: While others will don stuffy dresses and dress slacks to see the vintage-inspired spectacle (with 100-plus performers, as well as a 50-piece orchestra) at the Kennedy Center, you can roll out your blanket, dig into your hummus and kale salad and sip on cold one as the action unfurls.

The performance kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday, but gates at Nationals Park will open at 5 p.m. Here's what you should know:

The big change: This season, Opera in the Outfield takes place early in the  baseball season, rather than in the fall, as has been typical. To preserve the grass for game day, organizers (and guests) will have to tread lightly with on-field seating. So the opera will distribute a limited number of wristbands for field access. Snag them (you'll need one for each person in your group) near Center Field Plaza beginning at 5 p.m. If you don't get a band, don't worry: Hit the stands, which will be open to all.

Getting there: Taking Metro's Green Line to Navy Yard-Ballpark station is still an excellent option, but this weekend, look out for track work to shutter three stations (Greenbelt, College Park and Prince George's Plaza). If you're parking and taking the Green Line into the District, be sure to park no further out than West Hyattsville station. Taking the bus is another option: The Circulator makes quick zips between the park and Union Station. Parking at Nationals Park is also a choice, and with the cooler weather, might be a very good one: It will be $10 to park in lots B and C, cash only.

Where to eat: There are a growing number of options outside the park, including Justin's Cafe, Lot 38 Espresso Bar, and the new Gordon Biersch brewpub and Park Tavern.

Inside the park, head to the Main Concourse for concessions. Other levels will be closed (so no Shake Shack, sniff).  But Boardwalk Fries, Shawafel and Ben’s Chili Bowl will be among the vendors hawking ballpark fare to opera-goers. Soft coolers and homemade snacks are welcome, too, but outside alcohol and most outside drinks other than water are prohibited. (For the record, so are pets and lawn chairs.)

Can I bring kids? Yes, Opera in the Outfield is highly kid-friendly, if a bit of a long night. The company has noted that "Show Boat" is a 1927 opera, with language about race that can be offensive to modern sensibilities. New this year: Families can try on Washington National Opera costumes, including outfits from "The Dream of Valentino," "Don Pasquale" and "The Flying Dutchman." There's also face-painting and a chocolate tasting. If you're wondering whether the show will conflict with bed times, the first act is an hour and 20 minutes. Intermission is 20 minutes. The show will end at 9:45 p.m.

Lavanya Ramanathan is a features reporter for Style.



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Lavanya Ramanathan · May 15, 2013

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