The Super Captain Chronicles continue with super Super Captain Jessie Betancourt taking a look at the first rehearsal of Moby-Dick on the stage:
There is a first time for everything and opera is no different. After several weeks of working in the rehearsal hall it is time for the cast of Moby-Dick to start working on the actual stage. The first rehearsal on stage can be nerve wracking and exciting. It means that opening night is drawing closer, but it also means less time to practice. From this point on, every second in rehearsal counts. Once an opera moves to the stage a lot of things change.
The first rehearsal in costume is always a very fun night. Like snakes, supers shed their everyday clothing to don those of the opera world. Sometimes the costume alters a person so much that even their own mother wouldn’t recognize them. For every singer and super, a costume really helps to bring their character to life. Costume elements are added to the onstage mix. Hats, jackets, shoes can change how a performer moves in a scene. In this production of Moby-Dick many of the performers are wearing safety harnesses under their costumes. Imagine the pandemonium of dozens of men in the gloom of the backstage trying to get their pants over their harnesses for the first time. Getting comfortable in new gear is time consuming, but necessary to make sure the opera flows smoothly. By final dress rehearsal wigs and make up are added and the transformation is complete.
The actual set of the Pequod is much larger than the rehearsal space. Thus, the timing for much of the staging has to be adjusted. That means a lot of tweaking. During a run of the show there will be a flurry of action which comes to a sudden halt as a musical moment is tweaked and a quick solution is found for any glitches. On stage rehearsals tend to be longer. There is a certain amount of the hurry-up-and-wait, but it becomes very apparent that things are coming together quickly. Supers and singers alike patiently work through their scenes, making adjustments, getting everything fine tuned. There is a growing intense energy from everyone as the opera really begins to take shape.
The days before opening night are not just about performers. The stage crew is also getting used to the new set. This professional band of carpenters, flymen, props handlers take their job of moving set pieces very seriously. Rehearsals are a time for them to organize their movements as they fly pieces of scenery (as well as intrepid singers) and arrange set elements. They move as a team; each set change is scripted, so it flows quickly and efficiently. To see this group of men and women work is like watching a very intricate ballet.
Another vital element added during the last week of rehearsals – the orchestra. Up until now the singers have been accompanied by the rehearsal piano. The first time the orchestra joins rehearsals many pieces fall into their final place. Maestro deftly guides the orchestra through the musical landscape of Moby-Dick, stopping only occasionally to go over a few notes. It is hard not to stop and become entranced with the lush sounds of the orchestra and the beautiful voices combining for the first time, but there is no time and still more work to be done.
What all these “firsts” add up to is a very exciting opera. What was once a collection of scenes and moments have been woven together into an epic tale. It won’t be long now before the orchestra starts to tune their instruments and the curtain goes up on opening night of Moby-Dick.
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