Opera comes to an unlikely location: a skating rink

A designer's rendering of the North End skating rink transformed for Boston Lyric Opera’s production.
A designer's rendering of the North End skating rink transformed for Boston Lyric Opera’s production.Boston Lyric Opera

The Boston Lyric Opera will transform a North End skating rink into a ritzy 1950s Manhattan nightclub for its final production of the season.

At the end of April, an intimate, cabaret-inspired space will be created inside the DCR Steriti Memorial Rink, an unconventional location for a Leonard Bernstein double bill of “Trouble in Tahiti” and “Arias and Barcarolles.”

Of the many venues the BLO has performed in around the city, the 15,000-square-foot ice rink, located at 561 Commercial St., may be the most creative.

“We were trying to find unique spaces that fit the content and performances themselves,” BLO spokesman John Michael Kennedy said. “This just happened to be a really fun mix of timing, availability, [and] the fact that we really liked that space and thought we could do something really creative with it.”


The North End skating rink became something of an opera annex when it was previously used for rehearsals of “Carmen.”

The Steriti Memorial Rink filled with skating enthusiasts.
The Steriti Memorial Rink filled with skating enthusiasts.Boston Lyric Opera

The BLO describes “Trouble in Tahiti” as “a candid and profound portrait of a couple longing for love and intimacy amidst the American dream.”

Bernstein worked on it while he was on his honeymoon, and it was first performed at Brandeis University in 1952. It features a couple, Sam and Dinah, whose suburban life seems almost perfect. And yet, they are completely unhappy.

While jazz plays and the audience, seated at small tables, looks on, the couple’s arguments take center stage.

“It’s a take on that idyllic atmosphere that people tried to achieve during that time period,” said Esther Nelson, BLO artistic and general director, “when they went out and got dressed. It fits with that ambition to portray the perfect life.”

The one-act opera will be performed with 1988’s “Arias and Barcarolles,” an eight-part song cycle. The BLO got permission from the Bernstein Estate to combine the storylines for the one-hour-and-15-minute production, which will have eight performances May 11 to 20.


The rink-as-nightclub will be set up with a bar, special drinks, and bites for theatergoers.

“It’s beautiful; it’s also kitschy,” Nelson said of the set. “And the story is kind of upsetting in a subtle way. It gets under your skin.”

Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.