Chicago stages drive-through Wagner in underground garage

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This image released by the Lyric Opera of Chicago shows 2,880 battery-powered candles arrayed in an underground parking garage in this scene from Lyric Opera's "Twilight: Gods," an adaptation of Wagner's "Gttertdmmerung" in Chicago. (Kyle Flubacker/Lyric Opera of Chicago via AP)

CHICAGO – Amid signs pointing “To Elevator” and advising drivers to “Take Parking Ticket With You,” the Rhinemaidens lament the theft of their gold, Siegfried is murdered, and Brünnhilde drives off in a red Mustang convertible to redeem the world.

Welcome to opera in an underground parking garage.

A year after Lyric Opera’s production of Richard Wagner’s complete “Ring” cycle was scuttled by the pandemic, the company has brought a bit of the epic back to life. But instead of walking into the opera house and taking their seats, spectators drive down into the garage and stay in their cars.

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

It’s a reimagining of “Götterdämmerung,” the final installment in Wagner’s four-part saga of gold, greed and the downfall of the gods. Using his own English translation, Sharon has distilled the four-hour-plus opera down to six episodes lasting just over an hour all together.

“He came to me with this amazing, wonderful, crazy idea,” said Anthony Freud, 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, April 28-May 2, 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 U.S., 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.