Michigan Opera Theatre finds its 'Bliss' inside iconic Michigan Building Theatre

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

The Michigan Opera Theatre's quest to bring opera to the most unconventional places continues Saturday as it performs "Bliss" for a 12-hour period Saturday inside the iconic Michigan Building Theatre, a former theater turned parking structure.

"Bliss," staged from noon to midnight Saturday with the same actors and orchestra, will feature three minutes of "The Marriage of Figaro." Tickets don't have a set price and instead will be on a pay-what-you-can basis.

The MOT's Artistic Director Yuval Sharon said with "Bliss," it's about inviting the community to find common ground together, forgiveness and understanding.

Originally opened in 1926 on Bagley Street, the Michigan Building Theatre was hailed as jewel and "great showplace of the middle west." But after 50 years in operation, it was converted into a three-level parking deck.

"Detroit's motto is 'Speramus meliora/Resurget cineribus,' which translates to 'We hope for better things/It will rise from the ashes,'" said  Sharon in a press release. "It was adopted in a literal sense after a major fire swept through the city, but speaks just as well to our current moment — a time when people in Detroit are looking at the city's past, and imagining a new future that isn't just prosperous for a select few, but just and equitable for all." 

"Bliss," a re-creation of Ragnar Kjartansson's 12-hour performance piece, marks the first live performance in the Michigan Building Theatre on Bagley since it was converted into a parking structure in the 1970s. 

It's also the latest out-of-the-box venue for Sharon, the MOT and its "Out and About" programming. They've staged performances this year at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre and Meadow Brook Amphitheater. Last year, it made international headlines when it staged "Twilight: Gods" on multiple levels of the six-story Detroit Opera House Parking Center.

"I want opera to be close to everyday life," said Sharon in June. "I want people to not think about it as the castle on the hill that is forbidding or unapproachable, distant."

With the Michigan Building Theatre, Sharon said it's a perfect "layered, microcosm of Detroit history."

"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," said Sharon. "But elements of that hope and opulence remain."


Michigan Opera Theatre's 'Bliss'

noon to midnight Saturday at the Michigan Building Theatre on Bagley in Detroit

For ticket information, go to https://michiganopera.org/season-schedule/bliss/.