Detroit's Players, Seen Through an Operatic Lens

Monday, November 15, 2010 - 09:25 AM

Thinking about the Detroit Opera company trying to survive Detroit’s economic woes, it certainly seems that the abandoned buildings and tragic urban landscape of parts of Detroit  provide that city with an opportunity for theater at the very least.

The stark triumph (or not so much) over adversity themes in "La Boheme" ought to make it a Motown fave given the economy. You could stage it in some of Detroit's most troubled neighborhoods. "Boheme" is obvious though, so why not imagine other stories of operas starring some of the fallen, or embracing some of the narratives in the motor city? You’ve got discredited mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as Lt. Pinkerton in "Madame Butterfly" leaving Detroit in the lurch. GM would be perfect as suicidal "Tosca," or evil "Don Giovanni." Ford is clearly "The Magic Flute" in this narrative… you could imagine Andre Chenier for Alan Mulally over at Ford but then he doesn’t climb the scaffold in the end.

Of course, typically corporate heroes DON’T get executed. Chrysler would be perfect in the role of the feuding Lucia de Lammermoor getting hooked up to Fiat in the end. The poor Detroit Lions would make a deal with the devil in "Faust" to start winning again. The Red Wings? Obvious, "The Flying Dutchman." The much beloved but often heartbreaking Detroit Tigers would star in the fiancée-swapping "Cosi Fan Tutte," where perhaps fans would succumb to trading the hapless Tigers for another team as a backup. My favorite would be Alban Berg’s "Wozzeck" set as a metaphor for Michigan politics: loud, dissonant and nobody ever understands what is going on.

Hey, I’m just getting started. No sign of the fat lady singing here. Send me your Detroit Opera suggestions…or let’s invent an Obama opera setting. Obama at the G-20? "Turandot." Hillary Clinton? "Norma." The never-ending recession? Wagner’s "The Ring of the Nibelung." Keep it going…

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