A fiery trick went horribly wrong for an actor during a dress rehearsal of Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg on Monday, Feb. 4 at Lyric Opera of Chicago.
24-year-old actor Wesley Daniel was playing a fire-breathing stilt walker. He was supposed to drink from a container of flammable liquid and spout it onto a torch he held in his hand. It seems that the propellant may have spilled, and despite Daniel's fireproof costume and mask, his face was engulfed in flames.
Chicago Tribune photographer Jason Wambsgans witnessed the accident. “He blew one or two fireballs, and then it looked like he had spilled it (propellant) on his chin or his chest or something,” Wambsgans explained. “It kind of consumed him, and he was staggering across the stage and then fell off his stilts on the opposite side of the stage.”
The accident happened about five hours into the rehearsal, in front of several hundred audience members. A fire curtain was lowered approximately 15 seconds after the incident.
Daniel was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital suffering second-degree burns to his face and throat, according to the Chicago Fire Department. He was later transferred to Loyola University Medical Center in critical condition.
WGN news reported that another actor suffered minor injuries last week while performing the same stunt. Although the trick had been approved by the Chicago Fire Department, Lyric Opera has decided to remove the trick from the opera.
Die Meistersinger opens on Feb. 8 with additional performances on Feb. 12, 16, 20, 23, 27, and March 3.