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Drive-through opera staged in underground car park

The show comes a year after Lyric Opera's production of the complete Ring cycle was cancelled due to the pandemic.

A part of Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle is being performed in an underground car park in Chicago.

Instead of walking into the opera house and taking their seats, the audience drives into the underground venue and watches from their cars.

The show comes a year after Lyric Opera’s production of the complete Ring cycle was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Twilight: Gods, as the production is called, is the brainchild of Yuval Sharon, who premiered it last November in Detroit, where he had just been named artistic director of Michigan Opera Theatre.

It is a reimagining of the final instalment in Wagner’s four-part saga of gold, greed and the downfall of the gods. Using his own English translation, Mr Sharon has distilled the four-hour opera down to six episodes lasting just over an hour.

A scene from the Lyric Opera show
A scene from the Lyric Opera show (Kyle Flubacker/Lyric Opera of Chicago via AP)

“He came to me with this amazing, wonderful, crazy idea,” said Anthony Freund, Lyric’s general director. “The cancellation of our Ring… certainly made it seem particularly appropriate. There’s great excitement around it.”

So much so that all three performances sold out almost immediately, as had all the Detroit shows. Still, the total audience for Twilight: Gods will be a fraction of the number who could watch a single performance in the Lyric Opera House, which has a seating capacity of 3,276.

But for now, the house remains closed to live opera, as do other major houses in the US, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Many companies have instead reached out to audiences by streaming new content and videos of past performances or presenting opera in outdoor venues.

Spectators watch the action through their windshields and listen to the music on their car radios at the 13-acre underground structure near the shore of Lake Michigan.

When the first group of cars has finished a scene, they drive to the next location — the speed limit is 3mph — and another nine enter. This continues until 14 groups of cars have cycled through the whole show, requiring the singers to perform their scenes 14 times each day.

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