Thursday, January 31, 2013

Act III: It's Showtime

It's almost time for Friday's Opening Night for the Tales of Hoffmann. Each day I see exponential growth in the details of this production coming together: lighting, props, set changes, costumes, wigs, make-up, etc. We said goodbye to the rehearsal hall and greeted the Jubilee Auditorium stage.

Walking through the side slits of the circus tent and onto the stage was like being transported onto a personalized playground. The floor of the stage has a cork crackle, the walls of the tent are weathered and gritty, and lighting gives the stage an extremely moody atmosphere. Suddenly, we were provided context for all of the staging we had been working through in the past few weeks. It was a sensory overload moment for me. Looking at sketches and pictures of the stage in no way prepared me for what it would feel like to walk on the stage. We had an opportunity to explore, take note of possible hazards like the ropes that anchor into the floor from the tent edges, and orient ourselves on the different ways to enter the stage.

Stage Walk-Through

Then we had the started the cue-to-cue which entailed running through entrances, exits, set transitions, costume quick-changes etc. The cue-to-cue is where I saw the stage managers take control to execute Director, Joel Ivany's, vision with technical precision. Watching the inner mechanics of executing a professional production is just fascinating. Stage manager assistants use a stopwatch to time the duration of these events, our props are all individually labelled on shelves in the wing with glowing tape, there are lists with our names with the order in which we line up and even where we stand or sit on the stage. The stage managers consult their thick black binders, lit by a stand lamp, and they don't miss any details. They're like stage hawks.

My plan for survival as a chorus newbie was to just to try and follow the traffic flow, listen closely on the backstage intercom as we're paged for our entrances, try to acquaint myself to all this theatre lingo that is foreign to me, and read the notes from the Director taped on our door, which include thoughts on what to do at our next run-through. I also received my first note of specific feedback. In Act I, the chorus mirrors the movements of automaton Olympia, Hoffmann's first love, because she is coolest figure in the freak show tent. It turns out I have an awesome robot dance. My admiration of Star Wars's C-3P0 has paid off.


Act I: Olympia

Every day I add a new physical layer to my opera persona. At the first piano run-through I was just wearing my shoes, my costume the next day, then my make-up, and finally my hair to complete the ensemble. However, after a few days of just running through the show in a very detailed manner, everything felt settled by the dress rehearsal. Even though there is stress for some of the quick set changes, it is all a controlled frenzy. There's also a wonderful sense of camaraderie as chorus members help each other with tricky costume changes and participate in these transitions with a smile. I have to say, I've never seen people being stripped out of their costumes while, at the same time, singing off-stage with the Maestro on a video monitor.

Wig Prep
Costume Shoes

This new Edmonton Opera production explores so many interesting themes such as love, art, and women, while all seamlessly fitting within the world of this Dustbowl Circus. Experiencing Opera from the vantage point of the chorus gives me a deeper appreciation of the professional production scale of the Edmonton Opera and allows me to immerse myself in the world of this opulent art form for the first but, hopefully, not last time. The best part now is to share our characters, music, and theatrical perspective with our upcoming circus audiences.


For more information on performance times and tickets:

Fri 2/1/13 8:00PM:  Jubilee Auditorium
Les Contes d'Hoffmann
Sun 2/3/13 2:00PM:  Jubilee Auditorium
Les Contes d'Hoffmann
Tue 2/5/13 7:30PM:  Jubilee Auditorium
Les Contes d'Hoffmann
Thu 2/7/13 7:30PM:  Jubilee Auditorium
Les Contes d'Hoffmann

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