On Sept. 25, the Michigan Opera Theatre will present the 12-hour performance piece Bliss at the Michigan Building, a historic space that was once home to a popular theater. Throughout the show — scheduled from noon to midnight — one group of cast and orchestra members will continuously perform the same three minutes from The Marriage of Figaro, a 1786 comedic opera composed by Mozart.
Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson debuted Bliss in 2011. It showcases a scene from The Marriage of Figaro in which the character Count Almaviva begs for and wins the forgiveness of his wife, Countess Rosina Almaviva. MOT Gary L. Wasserman Artistic Director Yuval Sharon has restaged the show for the upcoming presentation of Bliss in Detroit.
Bliss is the first live show at the Michigan Building, located at 220 Bagley St. in Detroit, since the space was converted to a three-level parking garage in the ’70s. According to MOT, the building’s theater was considered “the greatest showplace of the middle west” when it opened in 1926. Today, some of the original details still remain in the building.
“The Michigan Building Theatre is a perfect, layered microcosm of Detroit history,” says Sharon in a press release. “It was built in the exact location where Henry Ford built his first automobile, and perfectly encapsulated the optimism and excess of the city’s rising business class before being unceremoniously and incompletely decommissioned. But elements of that hope and opulence remain. We invite the audience to find the beauty in this place — beauty that exists both in spite of and because of a problematic past — to separate it from its surroundings and, in Bliss‘s spirit of grace and forgiveness, nurture it into something new.”
Bliss is a part of MOT’s Out and About programming, which stages performances in venues throughout metro Detroit. Last fall, Sharon spoke with Hour Detroit about Twilight Gods, a production he directed that took place in the Michigan Opera House parking structure.
Tickets, which locals can snag on the MOT website on a pay-what-you-wish basis, give attendees the opportunity to come and go as they please throughout the show. Guests are required to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status.
For more information, visit michiganopera.org.