Lyric Opera copes with Wacker Drive construction
On January 3, the Chicago Department of Transportation closed Upper Wacker Drive between Madison and Lake for construction, as well as the Washington Bridge. The projected two-year project is the last phase of a project to rehab both levels of Wacker. Anybody's who's wandered the northwest corner of the Loop knows it looks like Batman chased the Joker through there—again.
Perched on the southern end of the closed stretch of road is the Civic Opera House, home to the Lyric Opera of Chicago. On the evening of a show, old folks in furs pile out of cabs on Wacker in front of the beautiful, monolithic building. Too boot, the opera relies on a loading dock on Washington, just off the bridge, to bring in massive set pieces from a warehouse on the South Side.
As I walk past the site twice a day, I immediately wondered how the construction would affect opera operations and possibly hassle concertgoers.
Magda Krance, Manager of Media Relations, explains, "In advance of the construction, Lyric sent email and snail mail advisories to ticketholders, added information to its website, posted reassuring advisories on Facebook & Twitter, etc."
She advises that operagoers allow extra time when taking in one of the five remaining productions of the 2010–2011 season. She adds, "Also important: Loud construction will be halted during Lyric performances."
Well, that's fortunate, though it could have added some sturm und drang to Wagner's Lohengrin. In fact, the CDOT has been extremely accommodating to the Lyric. "We've been planning with CDOT for over a year now," says Rich Regan, Facilities Director at the Lyric. "CDOT has really done back flips for us. They have phased the construction of Wacker Drive to have a low impact on our season as possible."
What that means is that construction is currently being kept from Randolph through Washington. The section of Wacker in front of the Civic is being left alone for the time being. For operas, the barricades are pulled aside to form a traffic circle.
"Our demographic trends older," Regan adds. "In this weather, our guests need to be dropped off."
As for the loading dock, CDOT is allowing the Lyric access through the beginning of April. When the last show (Carmen on March 27) is cleared out, Washington will be torn up.
All things to keep in mind when heading out to the The Mikado this afternoon. The Lyric's production of Verdi's The Girl of the Golden West, a western, premieres on Saturday 22.