Author Topic: Opera tips  (Read 31684 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Maribeth

  • Superstar!
  • *****
  • Posts: 1010
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Experience: Former SM
Opera tips
« on: Jul 03, 2006, 01:01 am »
I'm curious as to any hints/specifics that any opera SMs on this forum use- forms, prep work, book layout, policies in rehearsal, etc. I haven't worked with as many SMs who do opera, so I'd love to compare notes!

smDB

  • Tourist
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #1 on: Jul 03, 2006, 11:17 pm »
Before going into any specifics, are you an opera stage manager, or just starting out?  More specifically, what are you curious to know?

Maribeth

  • Superstar!
  • *****
  • Posts: 1010
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #2 on: Jul 04, 2006, 12:02 am »
I do both theatre and opera, but I've only worked at small opera companies and I haven't had as much experience working with experienced opera SMs. I've found out most of the differences between working in theatre and opera through my own experience, and was just curious about other people's experiences.

smDB

  • Tourist
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #3 on: Jul 04, 2006, 12:11 am »
Just don't want to offend by telling you things you know.  Well obviously as far as prep work, the 30 second timings are crucial.  I also like to go through and mark all scenes/arias on the right hand side with tabs for easy reference in rehearsal.   As an ASM, once you start to accumulate entrance cues, etc., I always like to put flags for those on the top as sort of a visual check of how long I have till the next cue without flipping pages.  I use tons of post its in my script during rehearsal, as notes about entrances, shifts, quick changes, etc. and then take the time to go back later to clean it up, with garage sale dots and what not.  Obviously, the WWW is your most important piece of paperwork (usually with a preliminary version completed by first run-through).  Don't know if that is helpful at all.  Let me know if you have more specific questions.

Maribeth

  • Superstar!
  • *****
  • Posts: 1010
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #4 on: Jul 04, 2006, 12:24 am »
Yes, I do most of that myself. Do you ever use 15 second timings or do you find that 30 seconds is enough?

Once the entrances/exits are set, I go through and put flags at 5 and 2 mintues out, for audio paging and then to check and make sure everyone is in places. Putting the flags at the top of the page is a good idea, and it would definitely be useful to mark the arias (i usually just do scenes). I also highlight rehearsal numbers if they exist, and highlight the top of each system, so that it's easier to jump to the next line during the show.

That's defintiely helpful, I wish I had some more specific questions, but I'm sure I'll come up with something. Thanks!
« Last Edit: Apr 26, 2017, 08:48 pm by Maribeth »

ljh007

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: SMA
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #5 on: Jul 05, 2006, 10:21 am »
Hooray for opera SMs!
You've mentioned what I (imho) consider the three most important opera-specific SM procedures:
1) Score tabs by aria/scene
2) 30" timings (sometimes I do use 15", it really just depends on my mood - either method gets you there) and
3) 5' and 2' places calls (I've had some theatre-only SMs look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them I have to call places for each and every entrance)

In my experience, the biggest factor when working with opera is the orchestra. Yes, you might go through 90% of your rehearsals without them, but once they're there, the rules of the game change in a big way, and you must be ready for it. You and the crew must have your act together so that you can execute that scene change in time with the music. Your singers must be on hand in an orch tech rehearsal so that you can skip ahead and jump right into the next chorus scene without taking 2-minutes to hunt down choristers. The clock is ticking when you're on orchestra time - and it's expensive. So the producer/gm/pm is usually in the house radiating stress and tension, and everyone prays that we don't go into overtime. Having a full awareness of the orchestra contract is essential (I usually ask for one at the beginning of any opera gig). You, as stage manager, are still responsible for calling breaks, taking intermission, and tracking the clock. So you must know if this orchestra plans to take two 15-minute breaks or one 20-minute (and call the rehearsal 10-minutes early). Does everyone realize that we're doing "Barber" and will need overtime at every rehearsal? Know your Maestro - is he good at watching the clock, or will he completely ignore you until you unplug all the stand lights (not recommended!)?

I enjoy the difference in protocol that opera brings, as well. I have always treated the art with a touch of formality, paging "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Chorus to places, please" and calling Principals "Mr. Smith" and "Ms. Doe" over calls and in reports. I enjoy the luxury (when we can get it!) of having a dresser accompany the principal with a robe/slippers/bottle of water, like a royal page. I get a kick out of that first chorus rehearsal where we take an extra five minutes to introduce the chorus to the principals, with a little patter of applause. For me, this is about demonstrating elegance and control in my craft. And opera is so totally involved, so complex (sometimes involving three or more unions and hundreds of production staff), that it can often seem insane or overwhelming. But to me it is the most fun and challenging art form to SM.
Looking forward to hearing more about this from other posters...

Likes:


ljh007

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: SMA
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #6 on: Jul 05, 2006, 10:52 am »
Here are some actual tips:
-Get a recording of your opera. You might even ask the Maestro or Artistic Director for a recommended recording - they're very different, really
-Have plenty of lozenges available all the time. Ricola offers free bulk lozenges to opera companies - visit www.ricolausa.com
-Have plenty of water available all the time, even if you are filling up pitchers at the drinking fountain and offering them on the tech table with plastic cups
-Try to keep dust and dirt out of the working spaces. Shake out costumes/prop blankets before the singer encounters them; mist with a spray bottle full or water (add a drop of eucalyptus oil for extra astringency) to settle dust in the air. If singers see that you pay attention to this, they'll love you forever.
-Pay special attention to the accompanist - this is an extremely difficult and often thankless job. (Accompanists tend to be very smart and funny, and usually have all the good dirt!)
-Train your ASMs well, and try to check in on them less. You have plenty to do already - let them set the props tables, and you shouldn't have to check them at all unless an ASM has a history of forgetfulness. Tell them over headset that you've called places, and make it their responsibility to tell you if they are missing someone - often, you might not have time to call attendance over com (and I find it annoying, anyway).
-Anticipate rehearsal skirts and practice props. Women usually wear some sort of gorgeous skirt onstage in opera, and they are also often tossed about or passionately embraced. Get them in a skirt early in rehearsals so that everyone can get used to her movement (and limitations).
-Start your WWW before rehearsals even begin. Opera is fairly straightforward, so you know when Tosca will enter - Puccini wrote it in the score. You'll have some unanswered questions, but you will be able to make excellent headway, keeping you ahead of the game.
-I ask chorus folks to wear nametags in the rehearsal space, and I write their names on index cards that are color-coded by voice type. Directors love this! They can group all the soprani together easily - keeping the Maestro happy too.
-Know your opera lingo: tutti, sitz, wandel, apprenti, repetiteur, toi toi, etc. These Italian/German/French potpourri are standard terms in this field.
-Ask in early rehearsals whether your principals want their entrances cued or not. Some prefer this and will look for a cue every time; others hate it and will ignore you at best, or get annoyed with the cue at worst. So just ask what they want. And keep an eye on them just in case they flake-out one night.
...hm, that's all I can brainstorm for now...!

Likes:


Maribeth

  • Superstar!
  • *****
  • Posts: 1010
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #7 on: Jul 05, 2006, 01:22 pm »
I enjoy the difference in protocol that opera brings, as well. I have always treated the art with a touch of formality, paging "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Chorus to places, please" and calling Principals "Mr. Smith" and "Ms. Doe" over calls and in reports. But to me it is the most fun and challenging art form to SM.

Me too! It's definitely a different process/ atmosphere than theatre. I love the idea of color-coding the chorus nametags- that's so useful! I'm definitely going to steal that. And I didn't know about the Ricola lozenge thing- thanks. Singers do appreciate little things that show you are respecting their work- lozenges, water, spaying down the dust in the air.

Do you speak other languages? I know French decently, and I had a chorus member teach me to pronounce Italian, and a frined of mine is teaching me to pronounce German. I'd love to get to the point where I felt confident in pronouncing them off the page- I can follow them now, but I'd love to be more comfortable. Are there any skills besides reading music and languages that you think are useful to you?

ljh007

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: SMA
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #8 on: Jul 05, 2006, 03:45 pm »
I am fluent in English and Spanish, and have basic conversational skills in French and Italian. I know a touch of German and American Sign Language, have a strong background in Latin, and am trying to pick up a little Portugese and Japanese. Languages are my thing - I love them, and have studied foreign languages since I was about five. I know plenty of SMs who work in opera with no background in foreign languages. Of course, being able to pronounce opera names and arias properly does identify you as a thorough professional.

There is this great set of books by Nico Castel from the Met that gives the operatic pronunciation of most major operas. They're called the Castel Libretti Diction Guides, and are categorized by composers, mostly. These books are in the reference library of most mid-to-large opera companies, or at university libraries. These are great because they settle once and for all how a *singer* (not a speaker) should pronounce a word as the composer intended, and to maximize vocal qualities. Have you ever worked a Thais with a French-Canadian director and a French soprano? Yeah - You'll need these books to settle the hourly debates.

I totally agree with you - reading music is essential! Besides that, just a working knowledge of stagecraft - typical SM jack-of-all-trades stuff. I can whipstitch a hem, I can repair a loose music stand, I can lead vocal warm-ups on the piano, I can write light cues, etc etc. The more well-rounded you are, the better solutions you can recommend in a production emergency.

Maribeth

  • Superstar!
  • *****
  • Posts: 1010
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Experience: Former SM
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #9 on: Jul 07, 2006, 12:34 am »
The diction guides sound perfect- I'll have to look around and see who has them that I know. I don't know about you, but if I can, I like to get a copy of the score with an English translation printed below the original, just to help me follow and understand better. Obviously, it's not crucial to do this, so if it's not possible no biggie, but I know it helps me.

DeeCap

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 319
    • View Profile
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #10 on: Jul 18, 2006, 04:12 pm »
I just got off the phone with an opera production manager. We were talking about the big differences between opera stage managing and theatre stage managing. One of the things he mentioned was called a "Who What Where". I think I've seen it on here as WWW. Now I know what that means!
I was wondering if anyone could send me a WWW. I would love to see what one looks like

ljh007

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: SMA
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #11 on: Jul 21, 2006, 10:58 am »
WWWs are extremely helpful in all sorts of SMing, but they are standard operating procedure in the world of opera. I've actually found WWWs most helpful during events/galas, when that is really the only run sheet I produce. Check out the WWW discussion in Stage Management: Plays & Musicals.

DeeCap

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 319
    • View Profile
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #12 on: Jul 31, 2006, 09:13 pm »
I just got my first opera gig!!! Wa-hoo! Sarasota Opera. I'll be an assistant stage manager.

Any other tips would be fantastic

centaura

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 405
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #13 on: Nov 17, 2007, 01:40 pm »
This thread has some good information that's asked about a lot, so I thought I'd sticky it to the top of the forum.  Other good threads for opera information are:

http://smnetwork.org/forum/index.php/topic,2158.0.html

http://smnetwork.org/forum/index.php/topic,550.0.html

-Centaura
« Last Edit: Nov 17, 2007, 01:42 pm by centaura »

sievep

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 204
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AGMA
  • Experience: Professional
Re: Opera tips
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2008, 12:19 pm »
For more information about opera, Check out the Opera Chat Log filed in the Green Room.
"This lovely light, it lights not me" - Orson Welles

Tags: opera 
 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
7 Replies
18233 Views
Last post Feb 12, 2012, 02:26 pm
by Maggie K
9 Replies
9671 Views
Last post Dec 02, 2006, 03:52 am
by LisaEllis
12 Replies
9996 Views
Last post Aug 19, 2009, 01:11 am
by GalFriday

riotous