Here's another guest reporting from the world of THE MAGIC FLUTE. We open in just over a week, so our lives are about putting this show on stage right now. Louisa Daughtrey, assistant director, brings us up to speed on this process with her trademark mixture of clarity and humor (I begged her to do this after falling in love with her personal blog here. Here's what she has to say:
It’s 7:30pm on Monday night, and I’m sitting in the orchestra section of the audience with the director, the stage manager, the lighting designer, and the HGO lighting guys. The director is holding a "God mic" so that he can speak to the people onstage from far away (the stage manager has one, too, but hers is a "Goddess mic," of course). I’ve got a notepad to take notes for the director, and I’m on headset with the whole stage management team so that I can hear what’s going on backstage and also communicate any notes that need to be taken care of immediately. The cast is assembled in the house, getting a safety talk from the technical director. We’re ready.
First things first. It’s Magic Flute’s first night on stage. We’ve been rehearsing upstairs in the rehearsal room for two weeks, but since the set consists entirely of flown drops and other pieces too large to fit through the doors of the room, we’ve had to approximate the scenery with lines of colored tape on the floor and a few strategically placed music stands. This first rehearsal is the Piano Tech (from the Greek piano meaning "without orchestra," and tech meaning…um… "technical"). It’s a four-hour rehearsal, and we get two of them, which may seem like a luxury of time for a two-hour opera, but we manage to use every minute. We have lots to get accomplished at the Piano Tech: work out spacing for the principals, chorus, and supers, making sure that everyone knows where they’re going; coordinate all the technical elements of the production, minus the costumes, wigs, and makeup (we add those on Thursday); make any needed adjustments to the blocking we developed in the rehearsal room; light the show so that the cast isn’t in the dark onstage; and find out how long it actually takes the animals (spoiler alert: there are animals in this show, but none of them were harmed during the rehearsal process) to get ready backstage (turns out, a LONG time—but now we know).
This Flute isn’t technically a new production (the set is older than I am…sshhh, don’t tell), but it’s not a remount, either. We’re using an existing set and costumes (by David Hockney), but creating new staging and a new lighting design for it. This means that not only are the singers walking the set for the first time (except for our Sarastro, who’s been on it at a different company), the director is seeing it for the first time (except for watching the 1991 Met video). It’s an exciting night.
And then, before you know it, it’s 11:30 already and we’re sending the cast and stage crew home. We’re staying to have a production meeting to address any issues that came up tonight. We’ve rehearsed each of the set changes several times, set placement for backstage chorus, adjusted spacing, practiced the monster’s blocking several times (spoiler alert: there’s a monster in this show. It’s an unwieldy costume, but luckily we have the most muscular super EVER to wear it), and given everyone the requisite number of breaks.
Of course, some things have gone wrong. They always do, and that’s why you’re not invited to this rehearsal. Props that weren’t in the right place, scene shifts that didn’t go as planned, drops that need to be re-hung, and German dialogue that still needs some refining (spoiler alert: the show is in German—and after watching last night’s final dress rehearsal of Abduction, I’m starting to think maybe all operas should be in German). But there was also the moment where the director was dictating notes to me: "The hedgehog can come onstage a little more. And tell the camel that he should be further upstage so that we make sure he doesn’t run into the bear," and all of a sudden, we looked at each other, laughed, and said "Can you believe this is really our job?"
Nice work if you can get it, indeed.