Author Topic: REVIVED THREAD: Transferring into Opera  (Read 12803 times)

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DeeCap

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REVIVED THREAD: Transferring into Opera
« on: Jan 14, 2005, 01:31 pm »
I was wondering if there is anyone who went from being a "regular" stage manager (lack of a better word) to an Opera stage manager.
I have about 10 years experience as a stage manager. I do not know how to read music (fixing that problem very soon).
How were you able to do it? Should I learn a language?
Any help will be greatly appreciated.
« Last Edit: Apr 15, 2011, 12:36 am by PSMKay »

DeeCap

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Transferring into Opera
« Reply #1 on: Jan 26, 2005, 10:18 pm »
Well, no one answered, so I assumed that no one has done it.
I guess I'm treading on new ground.
I started taking piano lessons and I've learned a ton in just one lesson.
Maybe I should keep a log on how I did it and if others want to follow suit, they can read on.

MatthewShiner

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opera
« Reply #2 on: Jan 26, 2005, 11:06 pm »
well, i did an opera - I was very lucky to work with an opera company who took a chance on me.

Reading music is imperative; also being musical will help a lot.  Even though you will hear the music during rehearsal, it's not quite the amount of time you will hear it when you do a musical.  (and trust me calling off a full orchestra the first time is quite a treat).

Forget a lot of what you know about "regular stage management", as much is done by the assistant director.  (For example, I did not take blocking).  There is a lot of quirks in stage managing opera, I spent some time talking to an opera SM who had done some regular sm on the side, so we compared notes.  There are a bunch too numerous to outline, but there are some traditions in opera which you will be expected to know.

(For example, tech is the most bizarre thing in the world - if you have an orchestra there, you better not be the one to stop tech to go back and try a transition again - the mastreo controls that rehearsal.)

My best recommendation is to asm for a non-union opera company and get you feet wet - keep your eyes and ears wide open, and learn as much as you can.
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Captainblack

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opera
« Reply #3 on: Jan 28, 2005, 05:34 am »
Going from a regular SM to a Opera SM is just the same thing.  You are doing the same job apart from now having musicians to deal with.   I went from calling Theatre Drama shows to opera then number 1 touring musicals. i have now musical talent myself and have never felt it was important to read music.  as long as you know the show from rehearsals you should be fine.  Another thing i always do is, when i'm taking over a show i find where its touring or rehearsing and i go along and watch.

linka

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my $.02
« Reply #4 on: Feb 03, 2005, 06:42 pm »
there are a lot of differences, but then there are companies like Opera San Jose where I do everything that I would do in theater, including taking blocking, being at all rehearsals, running understudy rehearsals, scheduling... all stuff that fall under an AD at the SF Opera. But OSJ also incorporates what I would have the ASM do into my job description ... so like tracking props and creating scene shift plots fall under the SM. The ASM is not brought on til right before tech. The only really weird thing is that I'm not at production meetings except on a "invite" basis.

And yes, the tech experience has been strange to adjust to... the staging night can only be stopped by the director or in an emergency (like scenery falling). The piano tech is run as a runthru, with notes afterwards (pray you get your light cues down). The orchestra tech is run by the maestro. And it's weird to have to page singers to places for each and every entrance.

If you are in California, you should apply! OSJ starts hiring about 3- 9 months in advance for stage managers. ... there are three levels.

DeeCap

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Transferring into Opera
« Reply #5 on: Feb 09, 2005, 09:55 pm »
Thanks for the advice! I've been talking to other opera stage managers, and I think I'm on the right path. I'll continue to take piano lessons, and begin to learn a little Italian.
Linka, I'll wait til next year to apply. Right now the only opera I can call is "Jingle Bells" :)

ljh007

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From an opera PM and ASM
« Reply #6 on: Oct 05, 2005, 11:56 am »
I have worked nearly exclusively as a production manager and ASM in opera for the last few years, after working exclusively in "straight" (dramatic) theatre before that. I am a musician, and an ability to read music is absolutely essential in opera stage management. I have heard horror-stories of folks working in opera (including directors!) who don't read music, and it just baffles me. Everyone on the production team in opera reads music - including the lighting designer. Not only must you be able to know F-A-C-E, E-G-B-D-F - you must read music fluently and be able to scan a score as you would a script. In my town, we are constantly looking for additional ASMs to work at the opera, and if they can't read music or if they hesitate and say they read "a little", I simply cannot hire them. If you cannot read music, you cannot stage manage opera. It is common in the opera industry to hire ASMs from across the country, simply because the applicant pool is so shallow. I encourage you to learn to play an instrument and become fluent in reading music. Don't waste your time learning the languages - Italian, French, and German mostly. If you have a knack for sounds and if you spend plenty of homework time before rehearsals learning the arias, you'll be able to jump right in the rehearsals when the director wants to pick up after "Meta di voi." The balance of power between the maestro and the director is a new flavor that you won't find in other disciplines. As Matt mentions, there are many different concerns in opera when there is an orchestra involved - eventually, you should learn the AFofM, AGMA, and IATSE union rules so that you can run rehearsals most effeciently. There are a ton of tricks I've learned from opera stage management that are also helpful in other fields: 30-second timings throughout the score, script tabs with aria/scene first words, and many other stage managment rituals that make the whole production smoother for everyone. Opera is a truly unique field and, I have come to believe, a discipline of stage management where if you can do this, you can do anything. Please PM me if you have any specific questions - I love stage managing opera and am excited to share any experiences that might be helpful to you.

jenk

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Transferring into Opera
« Reply #7 on: Oct 07, 2005, 08:03 pm »
Make sure you have crackerjack ASMs on the deck for you- their job is also very different from what you'd expect from your ASMs in theatre. If they have opera experience, you're golden, but if they don't, it's going to be really important to get someone who does to let you both know what that job entails.

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bex

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Re: Transferring into Opera
« Reply #8 on: Dec 08, 2010, 08:09 pm »
Make sure you have crackerjack ASMs on the deck for you- their job is also very different from what you'd expect from your ASMs in theatre. If they have opera experience, you're golden, but if they don't, it's going to be really important to get someone who does to let you both know what that job entails.

As an SM intern at a theatre that is currently working on a joint production with an Opera company, I would be curious to know what those differences are, specifically.  I have never worked on an opera before and neither has our production manager (I've never even seen an opera live...) I am REALLY curious after reading this and the Opera Tips thread, especially since we're currently running into some quirks with this company.
You will have to sing for your supper & your mortgage, your dental coverage & your children's shoes, over & over again while people in desk jobs roll their eyes the minute you start to complain. So it's a good thing you like to sing.

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Scott

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Re: Transferring into Opera
« Reply #9 on: Dec 09, 2010, 10:10 pm »
As an SM intern at a theatre that is currently working on a joint production with an Opera company, I would be curious to know what those differences are, specifically.  I have never worked on an opera before and neither has our production manager (I've never even seen an opera live...) I am REALLY curious after reading this and the Opera Tips thread, especially since we're currently running into some quirks with this company.

Difference number 1: Opera is quirkier than theatre.  That is the nature of the beast.

(You say your PM has never worked on an opera before.  I hope the company you are collaborating are has it's own PM as well ... otherwise, yikes!)

MatthewShiner

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Re: Transferring into Opera
« Reply #10 on: Dec 09, 2010, 10:25 pm »

Difference number 1: Opera is quirkier than theatre. 


And that my friend's is the t-shirt quote.

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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

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bex

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Re: Transferring into Opera
« Reply #11 on: Dec 09, 2010, 11:18 pm »
(You say your PM has never worked on an opera before.  I hope the company you are collaborating are has it's own PM as well ... otherwise, yikes!)

The opera company's SM is the SM for the production, but since it's sponsored by our company, in our theatre, built by our shops and using our resident designers and several of our company members in the cast, our PM is the production manager. Since none of us have worked with opera before there is just some stuff happening that we're like... Wait. Is that a quirk of the opera world, or is this company just weird? 
You will have to sing for your supper & your mortgage, your dental coverage & your children's shoes, over & over again while people in desk jobs roll their eyes the minute you start to complain. So it's a good thing you like to sing.

PSMKay

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Re: Transferring into Opera
« Reply #12 on: Apr 15, 2011, 12:36 am »
By request from moderator BayAreaSM, I'm bringing this back from the Archives for some new discussion.  It was first brought up five years ago, and addressed again very briefly at the end of last year, but I don't think we've fully covered it yet.

SMrose

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Re: REVIVED THREAD: Transferring into Opera
« Reply #13 on: Apr 16, 2011, 09:43 am »
I'll pick up a CD of the (full) opera (not just "highlights and arias") and once paper tech has been completed, I'll practice calling my cues to the CD.  As was previously stated, the SM doesn't want to be the one to stop the tech or dress rehearsals.

Singers, chorus, supers, dancers (and anyone else) gets paged to the stage (and in some companies, escorted to the stage) to make sure entrances are right on cue: it's a train wreck if someone misses an entrance. Can you imagine the whole orchestra grinding to a halt and then re-starting in front of an audience??


Maribeth

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Re: REVIVED THREAD: Transferring into Opera
« Reply #14 on: Apr 16, 2011, 01:43 pm »
I'll pick up a CD of the (full) opera (not just "highlights and arias") and once paper tech has been completed, I'll practice calling my cues to the CD.

As an ASM, I do the same thing with my entrance cues before rehearsal- particularly if there is a complicated or fast sequence. Sometimes I just do it at my desk, but if I want to figure out a traffic pattern, I'll go into the rehearsal room and walk the path. (I don't want rehearsal to start and realize that I'm unsure about a cue).

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