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Guided By Experts, Boston Lyric Opera's Street Stage Revives Live Performances05:00
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Zaray Rodriguez and Brendon Shapiro performs “Habanera” from Bizet’s “Carmen” in the Boston Lyric Opera’s Street Stage, on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Zaray Rodriguez and Brendon Shapiro performs “Habanera” from Bizet’s “Carmen” in the Boston Lyric Opera’s Street Stage, on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Boston Lyric Opera has made a return to public engagements with a new performance series called Street Stage.  The organization has created a traveling stage for open-air performances around Boston, not only for shows during the pandemic, but to bring opera into the community going forward.

The Boston Lyric Opera Street Stage at the Rose Kennedy Greenway in front of the Boston Harbor Hotel. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Boston Lyric Opera Street Stage at the Rose Kennedy Greenway in front of the Boston Harbor Hotel. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The customized mobile stage is a brightly painted trailer designed and created by teen artists from the organization Artists For Humanity. With guidance from co-founders Jason Talbot and Rob “ProBlak” Gibbs, the teen artists’ work graces the 26-foot long trailer.

On a recent evening, the trailer was parked at Rowes Wharf Plaza with a roped-off radius of 25 feet. About three dozen hula hoops dotted the green lawn, carefully measured to be 6 feet apart ensuring patrons maintain a safe distance from each other.

Earlier this year, the BLO assembled a group of disease specialists, pulmonologists, sports medicine experts and performers. Led by the opera’s on-call physician Dr. Susan Bennett, the group designed safety protocols to share live music safely and responsibly.

“It's a unique experience to be working with an arts organization and to have a health task force as a key committee and key sort of working group in the company. But it has resulted in our ability to produce things like the Street Stage in the safest way possible for our audience members and our artists alike,” says BLO chief operating officer Bradley Vernatter.

The audience, standing and sitting in hula hoops six-feet apart, watch the performance in the drizzling rain. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The audience, standing and sitting in hula hoops six-feet apart, watch the performance in the drizzling rain. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Upon arrival, patrons must check in with staff, share their contact information for contact tracing and receive a temperature check before heading to the lawn.

Vernatter says he plans to make the Street Stage a core part of the BLO’s programming in the future. “Accessibility and universal participation is something that we do think about a lot and we incorporate into all of our productions in the ways that we are able to,” he says. “It's not a secret that many of the theaters here in Boston are pretty old. And with that, there's narrow hallways, uneven floors, and they're not elevators everywhere.”

Zaray Rodriguez performs from the BLO's Street Stage as the audience stands 25 feet away. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Zaray Rodriguez performs from the BLO's Street Stage as the audience stands 25 feet away. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Opera singer Zaray Rodriguez, who started performing with the BLO last season, has been preparing for her return to live concerts for eight months. "I've been able to do some online performances with different companies, but it's not the same at all. So this first official performance with an official audience has been very, very special," she says.

Pianist Brandon Shapiro accompanied Rodriguez.  The two performed four arias, including selections from Bizet's "Carmen" and Leonard Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti."  And even though their Street Stage debut fell on a rainy night, it was still a success.

“It was very encouraging and humbling to see so many people out there watching the performance,” she says.


Boston Lyric Opera performances continue this month.  Updates to the schedule will be posted on the BLO website.

This segment aired on November 10, 2020.

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Christian Burno Arts Fellow
Christian Burno is the arts reporting fellow for The ARTery, WBUR’s arts and culture team.

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