It’s an anomaly, for sure – a floating opera stage on a lake at a shopping center in a landlocked city.
But it’s an anomaly that Wichita Grand Opera CEO Parvan Bakardiev hopes makes a statement.
Crews with the opera have been constructing a floating stage and set for Saturday’s Opera on the Lake — a first for the event — for the past two months.
“The ambience is unique, like nowhere else — not in New York, not in Chicago, not in San Francisco. Wichita,” Bakardiev said Friday.
The barge is anchored to the bottom of the lake and the Bradley Fair plaza; Bakardiev likened it to an aircraft carrier, calling it an “opera carrier.”
The floating stage concept is borrowed from the Bregenz Festival in Austria, where Bakardiev said he sang for years as a younger man.
“Opera is complicated to produce even indoor,” Bakardiev said. “It’s even more complicated to put it outdoor on a floating barge, but that makes us unique.”
The performance itself will also be a bit of a departure from previous years. In the past, Opera on the Lake was a concert-style revue of songs from WGO performances throughout the year, set on an elevated stage on land.
Twelve years ago, the organization put on a full-fledged performance of “Carmen” at Opera on the Lake, with a three-story set atop the Bradley Fair island, Bakardiev said. It has not put on a full performance since.
“Even the ones that saw it indoor will see a different performance,” Bakardiev said.
Opera on the Lake is an attempt by the organization to promote itself in the community to people who wouldn’t otherwise consider going to opera events, he said.
“It’s our gift,” Bakardiev said.
The performance will be the end of a successful season for the organization, which included the only United States performance of “William Tell,” Bakardiev said.
“Just like we’re unique as being the aviation capital, we’re the capital of opera in the Midwest,” he said.
Fireworks will erupt over the Bradley Fair “ocean” to close the performance, Bakardiev said. He said he wrote the fireworks into the opera itself for this performance.
“It’s a happy ending, it’s a marriage – fireworks,” he said.