Saturday, May 31, 2008

Opera: The end of the rehearsals

Sometimes I think I like opera rehearsals more than the actual performances. I find the backstage stuff fascinating but now that rehearsals for Das Rheingold, in which Sophie is starring participating as a supernumerary, have moved over to the opera house stage, I'm enjoying watching from the house.

About half way back in the orchestra section is a long table behind which are seated the director, the stage manager, and various other staff. Many of them have sound systems strapped around their waists and mikes on their head. There's nearly a dozen laptop computers showing god only knows what. It reminds me of the Houston command center in the movie Apollo Thirteen. My favorite part is when someone yells at the people on stage "Thank you! Thank you." In the land of opera, that means STOP. I'm going to start using it around the house. Sort of a positive discipline tactic, you know.

I've particularly enjoyed watching the director Francesca Zambello work with the kids. I have no problem at all with someone else kicking my kid's butt when they do it with the clarity and consistency of Director Zambello. I think it's good for them. And her butt kicking is absolutely appropriate in the context. This is not, after all, a Gymboree class. And as with Sophie's experience in SF Opera's Macbeth, all the hard work pays off when those kids are able to take the stage with complete confidence because they have been so well rehearsed. Although I can't say the same for the parents, at Macbeth, I don't think there was a single child who was nervous or anxious. They knew their stuff and were ready. I know the opera's objective is not to create a positive stage experience for the kids, but it's certainly a nice benefit from our perspective.

Director Zambello further ingratiated herself the other evening when she came down to where a group of the parents were sitting and told us how well she thought the kids were doing and thanked us for our hard work in getting them to rehearsals. A little while later, she brought David Gockley, the opera's general director, over so he could say a few words of appreciation. It was a lovely gesture.

Sophie had rehearsals every evening from Tuesday to Friday this week. They've had a rehearsal with costume and makeup but no orchestra and several without costumes or makeup but full orchestra, and tonight it all comes together for the full dress rehearsal. Passes are given out, and the house is nearly full. So I knew the other night that it was probably my last time to indulge in one of my favorite rehearsal activities: watching from a box seat. Not that I'm dissatisfied with the orchestra seats: they're some of the best in the house, and we can sit as close up as we want. But the view from the box shows the entire orchestra, and it's easier to read the subtitles. And I love the idea of my ordinary butt in these fancy seats without donating thousands of dollars to the opera.

From the orchestra seats, you can see if any of the boxes are unlocked by turning around and looking for light shining through the curtains.

The other night there was one, so up I went.

Indeed, an unlocked box.

Each box has a little anteroom, with a curtain dividing this area from the seats. No pictures once I go through that curtain. I worry that my camera would betray me and flash even when I've turned off that function, and at any rate, I don't think it's appropriate to photograph the performers or staff while they're rehearsing and working.

I'm glad to have seen much of the production albeit in pieces since tonight I'll be chaperoning in the girls' dressing room. My presence will fulfill some mysterious legal requirement, and I'll help herd children to and from hair and makeup, on and off the stage wings, and wherever else they need to go. We're in great suspense over whether they will "wig" Sophie tonight. For the dress rehearsal they merely smeared colored gel in her hair to darken it, but they said they might put her in a wig for performances. She's not too happy about this (she says "All the girls think the wigs look dreadful!"), but it will make my job easier since she'll be able to go to bed without washing her hair at the end of a long night. Stay tuned!

Have a good weekend!


Kate said...

How exciting!! Hope Sophie has a fantastic time!!

Monica said...

I can't wait to see pictures!