Sunday – 20 March 2016
Today was the final performance of Aida for Utah Opera‘s 2015-2016 season.
That was a bittersweet statement. I met a lot of fine people and had a fantastic experience. I’m also going to have snippets of the music from the opera playing in my head for some time to come. This was a great run, with an exceptional cast and crew.
In fact, let me quote UO’s Artistic Director, Christopher McBeth, to accentuate the point:
Near as I can figure at the moment, Utah Opera’s AÏDA played to well over 10,000 people. This calls for my best pipe and tobacco. Thanks to all involved in a great run and full houses. Slaìnte!
Let’s do a little math here:
- The Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre seats 1,790 people, according to the Salt Lake County Center for the Arts website.
- The show ran for five (5) days, plus one tech rehearsal – open to a smaller audience – before opening.
By those numbers, I’d be inclined to say that we played to full houses every night of the run. I consider that a pretty remarkable feat.
Anyone who’s been reading my posts for the past couple of weeks knows that I’ve truly enjoyed my experience as a supernumerary. Let me elaborate on what it took to get me to actually become part of the process:
- Sara was a supernumerary in The Italian Girl in Algiers. She had nothing but good things to say about the experience and suggested that I give it a try sometime. This was in 2010.
- Christoper McBeth is also a friend and had suggested that I be a super, many times over the years; I always respectfully deferred.
- After The Merry Widow (earlier this season), Michelle Peterson, Utah Opera’s Company Manager, was talking with Sara and me and said, “You need to be in the next opera!” I told her that I’d give it due thought.
- Christopher, at our January Guys’ Night Out gathering, mentioned – to the entire group – that we should run away and join the circus be part of Aida. Some of the guys gave him contemplative (but entirely non-committal) looks.
It was shortly after that January GNO that Roy and I decided “Why not…?!” We reported to rehearsals at the UO Production Studio in mid-February, without any idea of what to really expect. What we found was not only an incredibly well-run organization, but one that welcomed newcomers openly and warmly. To my knowledge, at no point was anyone made to feel like an outsider and they were very kind to the mistakes and questions of those who were new to the environment.
Rehearsal at the Production Studio
Let me also note here that when it was rehearsal time, it was a serious endeavor, but that didn’t mean that we didn’t have fun. Roy was cast as a guard, I was cast as a Captain.
No good can come of this…
We rehearsed for the next couple of weeks, first at the Production Studio, later at the Capitol Theatre. It was when we first arrived at the theatre that we got to see the set. And at that point, things started falling into place. Next came costume fittings and dress rehearsals.
Final dress rehearsal…
Captains: Thomas, Richard, David, Robert, and Cayman
All too soon, it was time to hit the stage for opening night. And, as I mentioned in a previous post, they threw a curveball at me and told me – minutes before the show – that I’d be filling in for another role, during one part of Act II. I’d heard the phrase “The show must go on…” more times than I can count; it never really hit home until this point. And the show did, indeed, go on. A bit scary. And far more fun that I could have imagined.
And it was like that every night.
The members of the cast and crew were great. Our director, Garnett Bruce, made a comment at the opening night cast party that stuck with me. One of the other first-time supers noted that he had really enjoyed the experience and that Garnett’s demeanor and energy had helped to make it so. Garnett simply said,”If we don’t make the rehearsals fun and welcoming, people don’t come back. We want to make opera inviting.” And it was. I would gladly be part of another of his productions, as long as my schedule permits.
Robert, with Garnett Bruce (director)
I’ve mentioned Jennifer, our AD, before – she’s the one who got me my new axe. She was also the top kick after opening night, as Garnett had to leave and prepare for his next show. She’s also the one who informed me of my role-reassignment (co-assignment?). And I don’t think that I ever saw her without a smile on her face.
Our stage managers, Kathleen, Carli, and Sarah ran a pretty tight ship, but they also kept the wheels on the bus. And kept the bus running. Carli was the Stage Left ASM and she gets my undying gratitude for putting up with Roy and my shenanigans:
One of Roy’s entrances had him carrying a statue of the Sphinx, our group was carrying litters of treasure, but referred to as “booty palettes,” right after him. So, naturally, we lined up at the same time. Whenever Carli would give us our standby calls before we walked out of the wings, “Standby, Sphinx and booty palettes…,” we’d break into booty-shaking dancing. Just off-stage. Barely out of line-of-sight of the patrons in the balcony. Her reaction was (usually) head-shaking… with laughter.
I also need to acknowledge one of our dressers, Jason, who helped lace me into my cuirass before every show and would also help adjust any other costuming issues he noticed as I was walking down the hallway to head onstage.
I’d also like to be sure to give a tip of the hat to the costumers, hair designers, makeup artists, musicians, dancers, and the backstage crew for also making this not only a fun production, but a memorable event.
There was a lot to say and I’m sure that I could say so much more. But, I think that I’ll just close with “Thank you, to Utah Opera for providing such a fantastic opportunity, not only to be part of this amazing production, but also to see what goes into putting on such a show and for allowing me to meet so many new and interesting people.”
Derrick Parker (Ramfis) and Robert (Captain), after the last performance
With Jonathan House (Guard/Carrier)
Robert, Roy Dawson, Will Johnson
With Jennifer Check (Aida) and Roy Dawson (Guard)
Roy Dawson (Guard), Derrick Parker (Ramfis), and me