Weeks before opening night, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion bustles with preparations for the upcoming opera season. As summer draws to a close, props are unpacked and organized, costume fittings occur, large sets are unloaded, and rehearsals are in full swing for Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci. Members of the LA Opera community participate in the ebb and flow of a pre-season opera house, a delicate dance of rehearsals, collaboration, and copious amounts of coffee.
A rehearsal stage has been set up in a room upstairs. Lines of yellow tape designate where the stage set ups are located for different acts. Friday’s rehearsal contained props for Woody Allen’s production of Gianni Schicchi. The scene takes place in Buoso Donati’s bedroom, after he has just died, and family members search frantically for his will to verify a rumored question: Did Donati leave his fortune to a monastery?
In character, all the singers – including Arturo Chacón-Cruz, Meredith Arwady, and Greg Fedderly – tear apart the space with gusto. Papers are thrown every which way. Dresser drawers are removed. Even pasta is flung in the air, all while the deceased Donati lies in bed (at one point Stage Manager Lyla Forlani stands in as Donati). It’s a hysterical first 10 minutes of the opera that ends with the discovery of Donati’s will and the confirmation that he has, indeed, left everything to the monks. At this discovery, singers mourn the loss of Donati’s fortune in true operatic fashion, complete with loud crying and exaggerated movement.
Suddenly, stage director Kathleen Smith Belcher chimes in with some notes. Belcher tweaks the singers’ performance slightly, while other creatives and crew confer on the staging. Rehearsals at LA Opera are not just between singers and directors; several creatives and crew members also attend. Stage Manager Lyla Forlani is there with her assistant stage managers, as are Music Director James Conlon’s assistant, Ignazio Terrasi (who also works as the production’s Italian diction coach) and Props Master Alan Tate. Larger shows have even more people in attendance. For Pagliacci, there are more than 120 cast members on set at certain points.
Kathleen finishes her notes and the cast goes through the scene again. It is their final, off stage rehearsal, and the singers repeat the section until they feel comfortable – cue the pasta throwing!
The season may be a few weeks out, but the hustle to opening night has already begun.
For tickets to Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci click here.