Actor burned at Lyric Opera rehearsal expected to be OK

The father of the actor who was injured Monday during a dress rehearsal at the Lyric Opera of Chicago says he could return home from the hospital as soon as Thursday.

Actor Wesley Daniel’s father says his 24-year-old son only suffered second degree burns to his lips when a fire-breathing stunt went wrong.  Daniel’s father says the actor’s lungs and airways are fine and that he is going to be okay.

A Chicago Tribune photographer was in the audience and captured the moment the flames flared up.

Wesley Daniel plays a fire-breathing stilt-walker in the Lyric Opera’s production of “Die Meistersinger”.  Witnesses say he had just taken a swig of fuel and was attempting to spit fireballs when his mask caught on fire.

“There was flames flying off of him onto the ground, there was flames on the stage, so it was pretty dramatic,” witness Sherry Ochoa said.

The cast was about 5 hours into a 5 1/2 hour dress rehearsal.  About 1,000 people were in the theater, watching and wondering what was going on, including mefire-breathing-actormbers of the Lyric Opera family.

But Lyric officials say they were prepared, just in case something did go wrong.

“The actor moved off to stage left,” said Rich Regan, the Lyric Opera Director of Facilities.  “There are fire guards on stage that took control of the situation.  Emergency personnel were called and the fire curtain was brought in.”

The Lyric Opera says Wesley Daniel was wearing a flame-proof costume and mask, and that the stunt had been approved by the Chicago Fire Department.  They say there was also video of last night’s accident that has been turned over to the Chicago Fire Department for its investigation.

WGN has also learned there was another incident last week involving a different actor performing the same stunt.  He was not hurt as seriously, but it also raises concerns about this stunt — which is probably why the Lyric Opera has decided to remove it from the performance when the show opens on Friday.

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