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Wolverines enjoy ‘motivational’ night at the opera

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Rome — Michigan defensive lineman Chase Winovich sat captivated in the second row as he watched the “Opera Gala” featuring arias from “La Traviata” to “Barber of Seville.”

The Michigan team and staff, in an effort to completely explore the culture of Italy, attended Opera Lirica Thursday night at St Paul’s Within the Walls after dining at Eataly. Earlier in the day they held their first practice here to be followed by practices the next two days.

There they were entertained by a soprano, tenor and baritone accompanied by a pianist and string quartet, after they were taught a bit about opera.

“I love it,” Winovich said during the brief intermission. “The whole experience is awesome being this close to the performers. Having this opportunity, we’re really blessed.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh had never attended an opera. Before the singing performances, he stood up and asked the tenor if he had an aria that would be motivating.

“Something that would get (people) really fired up,” Harbaugh told him. “A motivation opera song. Enthusiastic!”

Since arriving in Rome Michigan has had a nine-hour walking tour of the city, gone to Speedball Roma Club for team building, then to Ninfe Beach on Lake Albano, been part of the papal audience at the Vatican, a cooking school at which they learned to make Italian dishes, and then the opera. The Wolverines still have Gladiator school to attend.

The setting for the opera, inside St. Paul’s, an Episcopal church built in the late-19th century and featuring incredible mosaic work, was stunning.

Winovich found the experience inspiring.

“Hopefully it can inspire us to be a better team,” Winovich said. “Opera, football and life.”

Twitter: @chengelis