“A Sizzlin’ Sitz”

When all the “i’s” are dotted, all the “t’s” are crossed, and the final page is turned; one may look back at the Siegfried sitzprobe of May 17 & 18, 2011 and correctly identify it as the tipping point where one could now actualize–not just envision–the success of the upcoming Ring Cycle here in San Francisco.

Because Siegfried is the first Ring installment to receive a stand-alone performance on May 29th (before we enter into presentation of 3 full cycles of all 4 operas), it will be the arbiter by which we measure the coming operatic wave for this 2011 special exposition series.  That being said (and while not usually superstitious), I am a bit cautious about jinxing our upcoming premiere…  But truth be known, we had an extraordinary “Sizzlin’ Sitzprobe” a few days back that has left us all at the edge of an “infinity pool”.  (For those who may not know: The ‘sitzprobe’ is a special rehearsal where the singers simply stand and sing, and the orchestra simply sits and plays, the score of the opera–with EVERYONE paying utmost attention to the conductor!!)

With 9 French Horns(!), 5 Trombones, 4 Trumpets (maybe 5…I lost count!) a flawless Wind section (including 3 Bassoons), a full complement of Strings, and perfect Percussion, etc., etc., etc.; the rehearsal space at the Presidio, on the northern point of the San Francisco Peninsula, was awash with a wall of sound that seemed as if it could prevent the waters of San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean from ever meeting.  On the other hand, the sometimes tempestuous union of orchestral resonance and vocal splendor was like watching the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide at Cape Reinga, on the upper-most point of New Zealand’s north island (since I am pushing the ‘bodies of water‘ metaphor here).

Without going through every cast member, let’s just suffice it to say that all were at their highest level of concentration and in great vocal form, and the orchestra was perfectly iridescent under the expert touch of Maestro Donald Runnicles’ baton.  The above repeats itself in full with the sitzprobe of Gotterdammerung, which is scheduled for its stand-alone performance on June 5, 2011.


“Props…that’s my job.”

As the month of May continues to whiz by, so do our rehearsals for San Francisco Opera’s current challenge–namely, the staging of the entire Ring of the Nibelungen.  With the first installment (a stand alone performance of Siegfried) due to grace the stage over Memorial Day weekend, time is getting tight.  So tight, in fact, that yesterday (May 10) was the last day we could operate on the actual set in the rehearsal facility.  It was broken down and whisked away by our ever-efficient stage crew for reassembly on the Opera House stage immediately post rehearsal.

Well, we still needed to rehearse today; but with no set, what were we to do??

What so many fans of the operatic forum never take time to consider, is the sheer number of primary and auxiliary staff it takes to get the job done and get a production successfully to the stage.  Artistic Administrators, Scheduling Mavens, Associate and Assistant Directors, Stage Managers (numbers 1-4), Stage Crew Members, Lighting Designers, Wig and Make-Up Experts, Costume Designers, Drapers and Milliners; and of course the Properties (Props) Masters!!!

Well, we were in need of a full rehearsal of Act I (scenes 1 and 3), which is extremely complicated and chock full of props.  Props, PROPS, and more PROPS!!! Ovens, stoves, ropes, hammers, swords, silverware, plates, buckets, potions, beer bottles, chairs, napkins, etc, etc, etc…you get the idea.  All of them have an exact location where they are placed on the set at the top of Act I, and then get moved about as we flow the performance.  Yesterday I was told that we needed to rehearse today, but the ‘catch’ was that there would be no set on which to work.  I thought, “OK…done that before; no problem.”  I was then told we would have no PROPS either!  “What?!?!?!”, I thought; but just smiled and said “OK, see you tomorrow.” (?!?!!!???)

Enter: Prop-Master Dave!!

When I walked into rehearsal today, I could hardly believe my eyes as “Prop Master Dave”, along with his right hand gal Gina, had completely (and miraculously) recreated the missing set!!  They did so with chairs, police “Caution” tape, make-shift tables, boxes, wooden stanchions, et al.  They actually ‘pulled’ all of the necessary props that we needed in order to rehearse, and put them in facsimile locations, thereby enabling Siegfried (Jay Hunter Morris) and Mime (yours truly) to do a full and complete rehearsal with very little imagination needed on our part (we really do have enough to think about!!).  It was so convincing that I actually thought for a moment that the actual set itself had been unexpectedly moved to this particular rehearsal space.

I called them both over to me as I suited up before rehearsal and leveled a very, VERY sincere “Thank You!” to them, as I wasn’t expecting anything even close to what I found.  Gina giggled and said: “That’s OK!!”  Then Prop Master Dave–in his usual quiet, dead-pan tone–simply said: “Props…that’s my job.”

What a crew!!!!!