Friday, October 8, 2010

Opera Superheroes

Dear AriaGirl:
I was flipping through a program for Turandot and noticed a listing for “supernumeraries.” Is that a voice type I’ve never heard of?
Harvey M.

Dear Harvey:

Look - up in the air! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s the supernumeraries! (I’m sorry – I couldn’t resist!) Think movie extras, but on stage - supernumeraries are the non-singing extras of the opera world. They’re sometimes referred to as “spear-carriers” – an affectionate joke that has its roots in classical Greek plays.

If you love opera but can’t sing worth a nickel, your local opera company likely has a spot for you as a villager, pearl fisher, soldier, or servant. Far from being extra, supernumeraries - or supers – are an integral part of setting the scene for an opera. The bustling streets of Paris in La Bohème would not seem nearly as authentic with only a few other singers wandering around! So next time you’re clapping at the end of the opera, give some extra applause for the supers.

Got a question about opera? Send it in to

Ciao for now!

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