The Things They Made

The sheer amount of stuff that is created during the course of an opera production—props, sets, costumes, and assorted gadgetry—is truly staggering. Right now here are just a few of the items residing at Seattle Opera’s warehouse:

  • A car driven by a military chaplain in one scene; I was informed that the fire apartment won’t allow the car to face downstage without the equivalent of a riot wall (the result of an unfortunate incident at another company). In this case federal regulations literally limit the staging options so director Stephen Wadsworth had to divine a way to make the car’s headlights clearly visible with some diaphanous scrims.

  • Some fine wax wings for the opera’s Icarus. Like many items, these were not readily available at Wal-Mart so they had to be designed and created from scratch.

  • For lack of better descriptor, a faux door (similar to the percussionists “whip” clapper) that stage hands must slam offstage on a particular beat in the music. I’ve been informed that canned sounds are rarely convincing so this and some gunfire must be accomplished offstage—the latter with blanks fired in time with pantomimed shots from the actors.

  • An impressively large airplane hull that gets a huge reveal in the opera’s final act.

  • Assorted PR materials and brochures for marketing. Seattle Opera has exploited all kinds of community tie-ins in this effort, including local bookstores and the Museum of Flight.

  • Last but not least, the music—scores, parts, inserts, edits, diagrams: an almost endless glut of paper! Changes are happening left and right and errata must be notated. The piano/vocal and full scores must agree. Librarians and staging supervisors must record and process all of this stuff, which of course leads to the creation of more props, charts, memos, and the like.

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