The Super Captain Chronicles
Opera is the original IHOP – The International House of Performers
It is a brisk Saturday morning and the rehearsal hall is awash in bright sunlight. The sounds of piano music and a French aria pour out, interrupted periodically by peals of laughter. The cast of The Daughter of the Regiment is hard at work.
Directors, conductors and singers have gathered from every corner of the world to bring this production to life. Having such a diverse cast means back stage and in the rehearsal hall English is not the main language used to communicate. These talented polyglots slip effortlessly from their native tongue to English to sing in any one of a dozen languages. On this morning, stage directions are given in a mixture of Spanish, French and English – many times in the same sentence. A question will be asked in English and it will be answered in Spanish. During rehearsal and breaks a babble of several difference languages can be heard. Friendly chats in Russian, discussions of music in Italian, jokes told in French. The beauty of opera is it can be sung in every tongue known to humanity…even Klingon.
As the day progresses, spirits remain high even after countless repetitions of the same scene. Much of the humor of The Daughter of the Regiment is the physical comedy, which takes a lot of timing and practice! The director waves a handkerchief over his head as he explains the dance he wants one of the supers to perform. His hips wiggle and his arm wheel around as the cast watches and try to emulate the movements. Body language is an important ingredient in how opera singers communicate – both on and off stage. The director ends his impromptu dance with a flourish. The cast applauds and quickly gets back to the business of rehearsing.
Music is another dialect added to this lyrical mixture. Maestro speaks to the singers and musicians in a mish-mash of Italian, French, and English while using a vocabulary filled with tempos, measures and notes. His baton speaks volumes as he leads the artists though the musical landscape of the score.
The rehearsal day ends very much as it started – with music and guffaws. A lot of work has been done amidst a great of joking. At the opera, it is very apparent that laughter is truly the universal language.
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 do not 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, two Super Captains recruit and supervise this incredibly dedicated band of volunteers. Interested in being a super in our 2013 season? Call the Super Hotline # 619-533-7073.