Amidst the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, this September Europe saw its first live drive-in opera, the ENO Drive & Live. The English National Opera (ENO) staged a 90-minute modern-day rendition of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème at the Alexandra Palace in London, reported Stuart Jeffries of The Guardian. The National Opera’s attempt to restore live performances took place within “COVID-safe guidelines” by placing audiences in socially distanced cars; mandating mask-wearing accompanied by an online guide to attending the show.
Built from the ground up, the two-tiered covered stage for La Bohème incorporated two giant screens to relay the performance to its audience. However, the new artistic director of the English National Opera, Annilese Miskimmon shared that the production was merely a “prototype”, reported Richard Morrison of The Times.
In partnership with Uber, ENO’s VIP seats for Drive & Live called the “Uber Boxes” were static Uber vehicles for attendees who did not want to drive to the venue. For attendees in cars— the “middle classes”— admission was at £100 per car. However, the car park led to horns being honked instead of applauses in between scenes. Additionally, Jeffries reported cyclists joining in at £35 per bike to experience La Bohème from “socially distanced cells” until the 27th of September when the production wrapped up.
For attendees in vehicles, either the car radios could be tuned to 87.7FM for the best audio experience, or the windows could be rolled down to listen to the speakers placed around the car park. Rupert Christiansen of The Telegraph reported that the orchestra was conducted on the two tiers at the rear by ENO’s music directors Martyn Brabbins and Martin Fitzpatrick.
Additionally, Instead of being set in mid-19th century Paris, under the direction of PJ Harris and production design on Dannielle Lecointe, this rendition of La Bohème was set in 21st century London where the characters are seen living in camper vans. Natalya Romaniw and Nardus William were the voices for Mimi while David Butt Philip and David Junghoon Kim voiced Rodolfo. The entire cast list is available here.
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