February 2021

Michigan Opera Theatre Stays Safe With Drive-Through Performances

Determined that the show must go on, artists discovered a novel way to bring opera back to Detroit.

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed the historic Detroit Opera House, Michigan Opera Theatre Artistic Director Yuval Sharon staged an adaptation of Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods in a parking garage with the audience in their cars. The innovative drive-through performance of Twilight: Gods earned rave reviews from The New York Times and dozens of other critics.

Conceived and directed by Mr. Sharon, Twilight: Gods is a site-specific adaptation of Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)—staged in the Detroit Opera House Parking Center in October 2020.

“One of the brilliant things that Yuval Sharon brought to us with this production was when you see a production in the opera house, you’re sitting in the audience and the singer is up on the stage so there’s this big distance,” Ms. Walker said. “In this case the cars were right up where the singers were. The singer is literally standing right outside your car window and you are right there, face to face, but you are safe because your windows are up.”

Inspired as much by the brutal utilitarianism of the parking facility as the safety precautions of the coronavirus era, Twilight: Gods transformed Wagner’s six-hour masterpiece into an hour-long series of scenes with live singers and members of the orchestra performing in intervals throughout the parking structure. Equal parts drive-in theater and opera house event, Twilight: Gods gave audience members the opportunity to watch Wagner’s drama unfold scene by scene from the safety of their cars. The live performance (sung in English) was broadcast to car stereos—giving the audience a full immersion into the world of Wagner.

Leading American soprano Christine Goerke starred as Brünnhilde. Each scene of Twilight: Gods was accompanied by original narrative verse by Detroit-based poet Marsha Music.

“Connecting with audiences and allowing audiences who’d been trapped in their homes for months and months – it was very rewarding to us,” Ms. Walker said. “Many of our patrons had not left their homes through the whole pandemic. We were proud to give them a way to experience live music from these incredibly talented singers and yet feel safe inside their own vehicles.”