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For this opera, lifeguards required

Updated: April 14, 2014 4:48PM



There is much to amaze in “Orpheus and Euridice” as it unfolds inside the 140,000-gallon pool at Eckhart Park:

“We know that [soprano] Elizabeth Futral, when she sang this in Long Beach, Calif., had to build in breaks in her singing to breathe fresh air because of the chlorine in the water,” COT spokeswoman Jimsi Kuborn said. “We go into our on-site rehearsals Monday knowing that that is one of the things we have to take into account, along with the general temperature and humidity in the space, which are certainly different at a swimming pool than they are in a regular theater.”

And the artists are well aware of these matters, too, especially clarinetist Todd Palmer, who was in the previous pool performances and travels with a spare instrument, “just in case. You can be sure that these issues are all dealt with in their contracts, too,” Kuborn said.

Although there were no difficulties at either of the pool runs in Long Beach, the Chicago Park District understandably requires lifeguards to be on duty for all rehearsals and performances.

“We’ll have 230 people at each show,” according to Kuborn. “Most of them, about 160, will be on the deck, the tiled floor around the pool, and another 70 are up in the bleachers. You want to take appropriate precautions.”

The string quartet, piano, and bass also will be on the deck while Orpheus and Euridice float on a boat in the pool and their two physical doubles are in and out of the water itself.

Chicagoans have taken to pool productions before. Pegasus Players presented the first Midwest production of Stephen Sondheim’s “The Frogs” in the swimming pool at Truman College in Uptown in 1988 and did the same with the area premiere of a revised version in 2007. Memories of those first performances are happy — if humid — ones.
— Andrew Patner



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