Author Topic: New to Opera questions  (Read 6087 times)

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geridith

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New to Opera questions
« on: Feb 29, 2008, 11:57 am »
So I got tossed into ASMing an opera at the school I'm working at, and I seriously wanted to kill myself. My background before I came here was all musical theatre, with a few straight plays here and there, and then all drama since September. My first day on the show was the first day of tech, and I was completely lost. I had heard horror stories from some of the other interns who had done the operas here, who would cue entrances and get the deer in headlights look from the chorus after which the director would yell and blame the ASM... I was NOT excited. Luckily for my show most had already learned their entrances, since I didn't get there until tech, I just had to coordinate a bunch of incredibly awkward shift changes.

My next assignment is on the bigger opera in the building, which apprarently is going to be so large-scale that there is a PSM and four SM/ASMs, and I'm a little nervous. I really feel like there is a huge disparity in the way opera singers and regular actors, musical theatre or drama, are trained. I don't know if its just this vocal arts department, but both myself and the SM have been treated very disrespectfully, and are mostly ignored when we ask them to do very average things like sign-in on time and not talk backstage. One of the chorus members even told me a different name when I asked him what his name was. Then I looked like an idiot when my SM asked who I had gotten to do a shift change, and I told her, and she told me there was no one by that name in the cast. Of course, I had already typed up the shift changes and the fake name was on there, making me look like even more of an idiot. In our drama division, there are serious consequences for tardiness and behavior, but absolutely none in vocal arts.

I'm just wondering if this kind of behavior and lenience toward opera singers is the norm or if I just got lucky. It kind of makes me not want to work in opera, which sucks because I do have a very musical background, and its nice to put it to good use.

centaura

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Re: New to Opera questions
« Reply #1 on: Feb 29, 2008, 12:01 pm »
I split this into a new thread since it seemed to be asking specific questions.  Hopefully it will get some more attention on its own.

-Centaura

JPL

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Re: New to Opera questions
« Reply #2 on: Feb 29, 2008, 12:32 pm »
As to singers' behavior, yes and no.  I find that the better the singer, the better the behavior.  The top singers in the business are a breeze to work with.  The show up on time, they know their staging, they sign in, they treat their co-workers with respect, they make my life easy.  The farther down the totem pole, the worse the behavior (in general).  The singers who give me the most problems are the ones who aren't as good as they think they are, who think they should be singing in better companies, or the ones on their way down the ladder, who never got the success they are sure they deserved. 

You are working with students, who are still at the stage where they think they know everything, and expect to be treated like stars, even if (especially if) they are only in the chorus, since they obviously should be singing the lead roles instead of that no-talent bootlicker who was cast instead of them. 

Apprentice artist are almost as bad, since they are fresh out of college, and are sure that the fact they have made it into a program means they are on their way to the heights. 

At the next level, which most singers never get to, they pretty much realize that they are lucky to be singing instead of waiting tables or selling hardware, and they are much easier to work with.

You will soon see that these are very broad generalizations, that most singers are actually pretty good to work with, which is one reason I love opera.  But at each level, the bad ones stand out, and at your level, you have more problem children than you need.  The good ones, the ones who, from an SM perspective don't exist because we never have to deal with them, are the ones who will succeed and have a career.  You'll be seeing them in the future.  The problem children?  They need to learn an important life skill - how to say "Paper or plastic?"

John

jmc

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Re: New to Opera questions
« Reply #3 on: Mar 01, 2008, 04:49 am »
This is not only with opera, as neatly described by John. It also can be indicative of other aspects of this game.
Not so much with balet or where formal training is a prerequiste. But with the other 'twirlies' & 'luvvies'.
As a wee bloke [nothing has changed in that regard!] back stage. I use to believe during balet performances. When the little darlings tended to crowd out behind the Leg Drops. That they were genuinely interested in what the older 'riners were performing. Having grown up some what - I now understand it may have been only in the secret hope that the principals might make a 'blue' [gaff] & they would move up in the pecking order. I'm not sure that's the case with all balet normally, but it is with the budding twirlies & luvvies. 
Tio Tio Chookas
{May you always play to a full house}
'Hear the light & see the sound'

ChaCha

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Re: New to Opera questions
« Reply #4 on: Mar 02, 2008, 11:11 am »
They sound like a bunch of brats.

I find most singers to be slightly more 'needy' ( and I am generalising) than some other performers  but usually polite, professional and grateful for everything I do for them. I STILL find it a strange notion that they need an ASM to cue them on after  3 or 4 weeks of rehearsal - but accept that it is just one of Opera's 'little ways'.

Dont give up on all opera. It can be an abolute joy. Sitting in a rehearsal room day after day listening to that glorious music being sung just for you and 4 or 5 other people...  not to mention opera is usually resourced quite well!
ChaCha

ljh007

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Re: New to Opera questions
« Reply #5 on: Mar 06, 2008, 11:21 pm »
Opera gets a bad rap, what with all the diva reputations.

But there is a difference between a diva and a brat. It sounds like your students are simply the latter.

And I have to say, you really don't see a lot of stuff-of-legend diva fits. Sure, you have to have a thick skin and be somewhat flexible because I will agree that opera people (musicians in general if you ask me!) are tempermental, but it's really not that bad. One day you will meet a real diva, and then you'll realize all the babies you met along the way were nothing compared to the demented-but-talented dervish keeping you from calling the curtain up tonight.

I honestly love opera and all the wonderful people who work in this field. The creativity is endless and constantly inspiring. Nearly everyone respects the SM, often even more than I found in the theatre world. People are good about call boards and religious about call times. People are intelligent, friendly, and dedicated. They are also emotional and occasionally more expressive than you were prepared for. But these artists will never be perfectly behaved, and really, wouldn't that be boring anyway?

jmc

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Re: New to Opera questions
« Reply #6 on: Mar 08, 2008, 02:45 am »
As you would know Cha Cha, here in the this State.
As far as Opera goes, we are but a pimple on the backside of it in Oz!
Unlike Melbourne & Sydney, which is over 5000KM's down the road.
The WA Opera Company started off in about 1967 & after some what of a shaky period up untill about the 1980's. After the government gave a heap of gold to the company & still do. They stabilised when becaming ensconced with the WA Ballet Company at Her Majesties theatre/Perth.
{In 1952, West Australian Ballet was established by Madame Kira Bousloff - which was the  first ballet company in Australia. [She was the Prima with the 'Ballet Russe' in 1938 - choosing to retire to Perth]}
However th
ere is more fringe opera performed by Ameatre, as it is not a full time job as such here.
Years ago the bulk of it's members would pay to be on stage & pad out the chorus.
G&S is still primarily made up of the Opera Company members & other ameatre singers.
Unlike the Ballet Company which pays all it's 'twirlies' & black ducks.

 



« Last Edit: Mar 08, 2008, 04:15 am by jmc »
Tio Tio Chookas
{May you always play to a full house}
'Hear the light & see the sound'

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