Monday, January 12, 2009

Better Ingredients, Better Opera

Have you ever noticed that there are often a lot of people on the stage in opera? In addition to the principals and the chorus, the cast is filled out with supers, or supernumeraries, who are the non-singing extras. Our own Ben Davis (seen here hard at work) - in addition to selling tickets, coordinating volunteers, and a million more responsibilities – will be playing a super in The Pearl Fishers. Read on for a special joint blog entry between Ben and AriaGirl!

AriaGirl: So last Friday, I went to our Costume Shop with Ben for his costume fitting.
Ben: Mostly to tease me.
AG: And to play with the Costume Director's dog, Henry.
Ben: But mostly to tease me.
AG: Hey, I'll give you credit – it takes a lot of guts to show up on stage in that first costume.
Ben: Tell me about it. When they handed it to me, I wanted to ask where the rest of the costume was. Here's a picture (NOT me) of the costume – it's basically this blue pair of shorts that looks sort of like a loincloth. I've got a pair of boxer briefs on underneath, and that's all there is.
AG: So you're wearing the same thing as that guy to the left of Zurga. That doesn't leave much to the imagination…
Ben: It's not bad, really. It was a little weird standing there as these three women – the SDO Costume Supervisor, our Costume Director and her assistant – are all talking about where things need to be let out or taken in. I was kind of afraid to move, since I didn't want to get stuck with any pins.
AG: I can't imagine that costume needing much alteration.
Ben: It really didn't. It was mostly the other costumes that they kind of fussed over.
AG: I can't believe you get THREE costume changes.
Ben: It's because I'm awesome. The weird part is I get more and more dressed as the show goes on. I've got this tiny little first costume on at the beginning of the show with the big dancing scene. But then I become a litter-bearer for the priestess. Here's a picture of the second costume.
AG: I can't decide if I like the pink turban or the gold belt better.
Ben: Hey! I think I looked pretty great.
AG: Up close – in the dressing room – well, let's just say you'll look a lot different with the body make-up and on the stage itself. I just wish I hadn't left my camera back at the office.
Ben: I would've stolen the camera, anyway. So my third costume, the last one, is my favorite. I feel like a pirate in it because I'm wearing these dark clothes and have a black bandana. Here's another picture. It's the end of the opera and I'm one of the guys guarding Leila and Nadir. I'm dressed like the guy by the cage, the really fierce-looking one.
AG: You're hitting the gym tonight, right? So, I'm sorry I have to spoil the ending, but Ben has one of the most important parts in the opera.
Ben: It's true. I'm the trigger man. I grab a rifle and shoot Zurga after he lets the lovers get away.
AG: Is that the only reason you agreed to do this?
Ben: No way. I'm really stoked about seeing it from start to finish and watching all the elements come together. I'm just going to be dead tired at the end of it.
AG: That's right. You have evening rehearsals – and that's on top of working at the office for a full day.
Ben: I think I might take a month of vacation after the opera closes.
AG: I wouldn't blame you. Hey, I'll come and see you so I can watch a staging rehearsal. I think you should stay in costume during the rehearsals so you can really get into character.
Ben: I'll get back to you on that.
AG: You do that. Well, readers, I hope you enjoyed hearing about the secret life of a super, and we'll keep you posted as Ben's rehearsals continue. I'll be back on Friday with the secret life of a chorister after I attend the first chorus rehearsal. That is, if all that snow out there doesn't stop me. See you on Friday!

Pictures courtesy San Diego Opera (Ken Howard) and Michigan Opera Theatre (John Grigaitis).

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