Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | Voter Guide

San Diego Opera Stages Drive-In ‘La Bohème’

Innovative production addresses COVID safety measures for singers,audience

Photo credit: San Diego Opera

San Diego Opera began building its outdoor stage in the Pechaga Arena San Diego parking lot its drive-in production of "La Bohème."

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

Live opera is back but with a twist. San Diego Opera will be staging "La Bohème" in the parking lot of Pechanga Arena San Diego next week. Here's what you can expect.

Aired: October 15, 2020 | Transcript

Live opera is back but with a twist. San Diego Opera will be staging "La Bohème" in the parking lot of Pechanga Arena San Diego next week. Here's what you can expect.

This pandemic is forcing arts organizations to get creative to find ways to perform and to actually create something that can generate revenue.

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

Taking its cue from a number of successful drive-in events in Europe and the United States, San Diego Opera has decided to build an outdoor stage at the Pechanga Arena parking lot and do a re-imagined version of Puccini's "Bohème."

Director Keturah Stickann has plenty of experience doing opera outdoors but this will be her first drive-in opera.

"I'm so happy for the innovation and their creativity," Stickann said of working once again with San Diego Opera. "I know there have been a couple of other companies around the world right now who've been experimenting a little bit with drive-in opera. And it feels really exciting to be one of those maybe three companies. But also I think every time you watch a show from a different perspective, it changes the way you see the show. And what I'm really excited about is just what the storytelling feels like in this in this type of venue."

But the big challenge for Stickann and the whole company is COVID and the onstage protocols that are required during this pandemic.

"One of the biggest ones being that each singer needs 120 square feet of their own wherever they are on stage, meaning that they cannot be any closer than 15 feet from the person that they are singing toward and no closer than four feet on either side," Stickann explained. "So that challenge changed the entire way that I had to think about the piece that I was putting together."

Some of the changes include no chorus (it was logistically too difficult to fit that many people on stage with the distancing requirements) and a streamlined opera that will likely run less than 90 minutes (to eliminate the need for an intermission).

"So we're setting it in [Rodolfo's] study 10 years after the death of Mimi," Stickann said. "He's writing these stories and because of the nature of memory, which I love, I love this moment that you can dive so deeply into a memory and hear everything and smell things and feel things, but you can't actually touch what happened. It doesn't exist anymore. And so I'm allowing these people who came through his life to appear and disappear as memory, as fragments, as the memories, sort, of course, through him. But he's in his study reliving this."

There will be four drive-in performances: Oct. 24, 27, 30 and Nov. 1.

Information from San Diego Opera's website states: "For this event, guests will remain in their cars for the duration of the performance. The opera will be transmitted to car stereos via FM radio and large screens will show simulcasts of the singers on stage. Masks and social distancing protocols will be enforced when patrons briefly leave their cars to use the restroom."

There is also a FAQ page on their website.

  • Your curated weekly guide to local arts and culture in San Diego, from Arts Calendar Editor Julia Dixon Evans, delivered to your inbox every Thursday afternoon.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Photo of Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.