Author Topic: What to expect moving from straight plays to opera  (Read 2717 times)

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JJ Hersh

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What to expect moving from straight plays to opera
« on: Jun 05, 2017, 07:03 pm »
I just got an Assistant Stage Manager position for this summer, and I'm really excited about it. I've never worked on an opera before, I was wondering how different opera and straight play stage management are. Is there anything I should look out for? Is the stage manager's role pretty similar?

Maggie K

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Re: What to expect moving from straight plays to opera
« Reply #1 on: Jun 05, 2017, 11:05 pm »
There are a few differences.  The atmosphere can sometimes be more formal (referring to the conductor/music director as Maestro, etc.) and having supernumeraries.  Probably the biggest differences for stage management is the fact that you will have a score instead of a script, the ASMs frequently will cue entrances (particularly for the chorus), and you create a who/what/where instead of a run sheet and entrance/exit.  Most things are the same or similar enough that you shouldn't have any problems.  Congratulations and good luck!
I like the ephemeral thing about theatre, every performance is like a ghost - it's there and then it's gone. -Maggie Smith


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Re: What to expect moving from straight plays to opera
« Reply #2 on: Jun 06, 2017, 06:51 am »
Always cue entrances for chorus and for supernumeraries.
Wear quiet shoes. No noisy jewelry or key rings. Avoid wearing perfume/cologne.
Never walk between the conductor and the artists while they're singing (unless you absolutely have to in which case duck out of the way).
Highlight the rehearsal numbers in your score (ask your SM what those are) as they are commonly referred to when starting up again.
Listen to a recording to become familiar with the music, the artists will all know it already on day 1 (or at least they should!).
Enjoy the music!


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Re: What to expect moving from straight plays to opera
« Reply #3 on: Jun 06, 2017, 01:20 pm »
There's a great thread about opera here.

A difference worth noting is that often the rehearsal process is shorter than in theatre- maybe 2 weeks of rehearsal before tech. So it can end up being a less "organic" process to figure out blocking, and might be more of the director telling performers where to walk. (Especially when you have a large chorus, children's chorus, group of supers, dancers, or maybe all of the above).

A lot of the blocking, like entrances and exits, is sometimes already determined by the score. You can study the score ahead of time and roughly mark some entrance cues. Opera companies will often rent sets and/or costumes from previous productions, and if the same director or AD is directing your company's production, you might be able to use the paperwork from the previous production to get a leg up on your own paperwork.

Rehearsals are often split into different sessions, and you might have 2 or 3 sessions per day. Not all performers are called to all sessions, so you might have morning and afternoon sessions with just the principals, and in the evening rehearse with just chorus and supers. ASMs will often walk the parts of the missing principals for a chorus rehearsal (or vice versa), so it's important to take good blocking notes.

I second the suggestion of familiarizing yourself with the music ahead of time- listen to it while following along in the score, but also just play it in the car on your way in. It makes things a lot easier if you know the music. I would also do a little research on the opera itself to see if there are any famous arias (or something similar) that all of the "opera people" in the room will be well-familiar with- you don't want to feel like you're in the dark.

Have fun!
« Last Edit: Feb 12, 2018, 07:58 pm by Maribeth »


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Re: What to expect moving from straight plays to opera
« Reply #4 on: Jun 07, 2017, 11:00 pm »
Yes, read up on the opera thread — because the protocols and hierarchies are a bit different. And so are the egos. And yes, you will be literally cueing almost everyone's entrances if it's a professional house. But it can be great, and if you read music and find this your niche, it is a field where there is good work and opportunity.

Have fun!


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