Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Super Captain Chronicles

The Aria Serious crew is pleased to welcome Jesi Betancourt who is one of our Super Captains. Here she reports on the making of the crew of the Pequod in Moby-Dick

The Anatomy of an Opera  Rehearsal…

On a recent Saturday morning the doors to Golden Hall swung open for the first staging rehearsal of our exciting new production of Moby-Dick. The first rehearsal for any opera has the feeling of the first day of school; greetings of longtime friends are exchanged as well as introductions as “the new kids” are welcomed.  There is a certain kind of nervous, excited energy before the first rehearsal.  Just as the Peqoud set sail into its destiny, our production was about to embark on its own wonderful journey.

The first rehearsal is usually about blocking and staging and less about the music (that will come later).  The director (our captain, for lack of a better comparison) usually takes several minutes to talk about the opera, their vision for the production, the history of the opera, as well the mood of the piece.  Our course has been charted, now it is time to go to work.

Staging is a very necessary, yet rather tedious part of the rehearsal process. When you have dozens of men pulling on ropes, climbing on ladders, scampering up walls, it takes a lot of patience and attention to detail to get everything where it belongs. The rehearsal space usually has a mockup of the actual stage. We won’t see the real set until we move the rehearsals into the theater. In the meantime we have rehearsal props and vivid imaginations. Each person; chorister, acrobat or super, is given specific tasks and cues. Everyone is an integral part of bringing the Peqoud alive. The principal singers will be added in a few days.  For now we watch and listen to the assistant director who careful places people in what seems like a jumble of humanity – how is this all going to work together?  

Once each person is given their staging the moment of truth arrives -run the entire sequence to the music. Everyone inhales as the first note is played on the rehearsal piano and then the Peqoud bursts into music and a flurry of action. All the seemingly random staging flows together as ropes are pulled in unison, men climb and props are placed in perfect time with the music. It looks like magic, but it is really a result of long hours of preparation by the production staff and the dedication of the performers.

The first rehearsal draws to a close after several hours. Everyone is tired, but exhilarated.  A lot of work was accomplished in a short time. Our Peqoud is well on its way to opening night.

A note about Supers and Super Captains:  Extras in opera are called supernumeraries or “supers” for short.  Supers are non-singing roles and perform as functionaries, such as spear carriers, chambermaids, butlers, town folks, bandits, nuns, and prostitutes. They carry, fetch, open, close, haul and clean. Without supers much of the action on stage would not happen. Every super is a volunteer. Most don’t have any formal training in the performing arts, just a love of music. They willingly spend their free time to help bring opera to life. At the San Diego Opera there are two Super Captains who recruit and supervise this incredibly dedicated band of volunteers.  Interested in being a super in our upcoming 2013 season? Call the Super Hotline # 619-533-7073.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very intersting commentary on 'supers'and what they do Thank you.