Lyric Opera staging 2 epics in 1 season

The stagehands were having trouble fitting a missing chunk of Carthage into place, but Michael Smallwood wasn't worried.

"That's why we have these technical rehearsals before the singers show up," Smallwood said in an interview last month in the darkened auditorium of the Civic Opera House where he was watching the set being assembled for Berlioz's "Les Troyens."

Smallwood, Lyric Opera's technical director, had overseen the same process a few weeks earlier for another 19th-century epic on the Lyric's schedule this fall: "Das Rheingold," the first installment in Wagner's "Ring" cycle. Because these are large-scale works posing...