Twilight: Gods
"Twilight: Gods" is being staged in the Detroit Opera House Parking Center (Paul-David Rearick)

Twilight: Gods is being staged in the Detroit Opera House Parking Center so that audience members can watch from their cars while socially distancing.

Yuval Sharon, recently named artistic director of the Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT), has immersed himself in the current essence of the Motor City as expressed through his first production.

Twilight: Gods is being staged in the Detroit Opera House Parking Center so that audience members can watch from their cars while socially distancing.

The opera, conceived and directed by Sharon, is an adaptation of Richard Wagner’s Gottërdammerung, The Twilight of the Gods. It transforms Wagner’s six-hour piece into an hourlong series of scenes with live singers and members of the MOT orchestra performing in intervals throughout the parking center.

Lyrics, sung in English, will be broadcast to car stereos.

“I thought this would be a great way to shift our focus away from the way we normally think of opera and go more deeply into how we experience our everyday lives,” said Sharon, who has established an innovative international career and will celebrate his 41st birthday in October, the month the production is premiering.

“The notion of doing an opera in a parking center felt closely aligned with my own vision for opera. I want to make sure we’re constantly creating pieces that will [renew and extend the audience] with people realizing opera can be an art form that truly is in the fabric of the city.”

Sharon hopes this piece will convey that art can lead and inspire people to think differently even in times of crisis.

“It is ultimately about tearing down the old world order so that something new can emerge — this notion that we need to clear away all of the structures and the systems that no longer serve humanity so that we can truly progress as a society,” he explained.

The production stars Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde and has new narrative poetry by Detroiter Marsha Music and musical arrangements by Ed Windels.

Israeli Father’s Influence

Sharon, who lived his first three years in Israel before his family moved near Chicago, was introduced to opera at 13 by his late father. Although the new Detroiter was not taken with opera then, he enjoyed spending time with his dad. Years later, while studying theater and literature at the University of California, Berkeley, he became interested in venturing out to opera on his own.

“I took a lot of music classes as well and started thinking of opera as literature,” he said. “Being able to read opera the way we read a book left a very deep impression on me.”

New MOT artistic director, with Israeli roots, Yuval Sharon, premieres adapted classic geared to city on wheels.
Yuval Sharon Casey Kringlen

After college, Sharon spent a year in Berlin, where he found opera very accessible. He saw many productions showcasing experimentation with little reverence for the original pieces.
“After that, it was impossible to imagine doing theater without music,” Sharon said.

“Opera, because it is the intersection of so many different art forms, is actually the art form that has the most potential for speaking to contemporary life. I became really committed to opera as a living piece of our culture.”

Sharon’s early work responsibilities were at the New York City Opera, where he moved among assignments for seven years. Assisting the general director and handling marketing and production posts helped develo p his administrative skills.

Sharon comes to MOT with many distinguishing credits. He has been honored with a MacArthur Fellowship, and he directed a landmark production of John Cage’s Song Books at the San Francisco Symphony and Carnegie Hall. His production of The Cunning Little Vixen, originally produced in conjunction with the Cleveland Orchestra, was the first fully staged opera ever presented in Vienna’s Musikverein.

Innovative Staging

While in Michigan, he will hold on to his position of artistic director of The Industry in Los Angeles, where he has staged experimental opera with the use of moving vehicles, operating train stations, Hollywood sound stages and various alternative stages, such as escalator corridors and warehouses.

“I am responsible for shaping the artistic identity of MOT and upholding the standards of musical excellence I think this audience has come to expect,” said Sharon, who is single and looking for a local home. “I want to make sure that the organization’s identity is in synch with Detroit and the communities that make up the Metropolitan Detroit area. That’s going to be my driving force in picking out pieces.

“For each season, we will take our audience on a journey. A very important part of that is the advocacy for this kind of work, which means being very involved with the development, marketing and press departments — working with everyone to ensure the communication of that artistic identity as truly unified and to win as many fans for this adventurous work as possible.”

Detroit Opera House
Detroit Opera House Mitty Carter

Sharon plans on continuing with traditional opera as part of the journey and bringing performances into communities.

During the pandemic and away from live productions, Sharon has been writing a book detailing his opera experiences and projections for the future of the art form. Next year, he will be a visiting scholar in Jerusalem, where he plans to connect with opera presenters and reboot Hebrew, his first language.

“I love learning languages,” said Sharon, fluent in German with knowledge of Italian, French and Spanish and beginning studies of Japanese. “When I hear my mom speak Hebrew, I still understand it.”

Sharon’s full MOT title is the Gary L. Wasserman Artistic Director because his tenure is funded in part by Wasserman, a member of the MOT board of directors and multimedia art presenter through Wasserman Projects in Detroit. Sharon and Wasserman became acquainted at the Ojai Music Festival in California.

As Sharon travels the globe he is often asked if he is related to Ariel Sharon. Although he knows questioners mean the late prime minister of Israel, he has an initial answer.

“Yes, he was my dad,” Sharon laughs before explaining that his dad had the same first name as the prime minister and knowing that his dad could be considered a prime mentor in his career direction.

Details

Twilight: Gods will be presented Oct. 17, 18 and 20 at the Detroit Opera House Parking Center. Tickets, at $79 per car, must be purchased in advance. (313) 237-7464. michiganopera.org.

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