When it comes to these final days before opening night on Saturday, I am reminded of the enormous aviation hangars where massive unpainted aircraft fuselages are centrally perched off the floor with other components being joined from all sides before the hangar door opens to reveal a shiny, smooth vehicle that beautifully hides the cumulative hours of work, coordination and inspiration.
So goes opera this week as the Minnesota Opera moves its artistic and production operations from our spectacular Opera Center in Minneapolis to our performance home, the Ordway in St. Paul.
Monday night the cast and chorus meets the orchestra for the first time. In a rehearsal space down the hallway from the simultaneously occurring lighting and scenery work onstage tempos are tried and refined, balances are considered and trust is built.
We will start from the top and work through each of the four acts to see how the initial musical ideas of the past three weeks mix with the movement of fifty-five musicians of the Minnesota Opera orchestra. Sometimes tempi that felt a little brisk with piano alone feel a bit different with plush strings contributing a bit of cushion but keeping the necessary momentum. Sometimes little corners that were easy to turn between a singer and pianist reveal themselves to be impractical with so many people participating. But more often than not the orchestra feeds off the drama and direction of the voice, and singers are buoyed by the mass of sound and instrumental color accompanying them.
Tuesday evening costumes, wigs and makeup are revealed onstage for the first time and the company begins to orient to the slightly larger on and off stage space. It will also be an important opportunity to see the twenty-one grand hand-painted scenery drops and working with those images. The orchestra is not required for this nor the Wednesday afternoon rehearsal sessions as these hours are occupied with moving people into the best areas for lighting or coordinating entrances around the enormous number of people the opera requires onstage.
With hopes that most of the logistics are worked out the orchestra convenes in the pit Wednesday evening and we truly bring all the pieces together. Thursday evening is our last crack at it with the opportunity to stop if absolutely necessary.
Then, the hangar door opens Saturday revealing a project that is polished and proud.
Heartfelt thanks to everyone backstage in areas like costumes and wigs, props, the scenery and paint shop and our administrative and artistic teams for allowing us to take a bow on your behalf.
- Minnesota Opera Music Director Michael Christie
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