Tag Archives: Props
For the past few weeks, our props, costumes, and wig/makeup teams – the same people who created a scarily realistic head of the John the Baptist for Salome – have been working on their latest bit of opera magic. They’re not just creating a head, but an entire body to look like one of the characters in Tosca.
That character? Cesare Angelotti.
Angelotti (played in our production by Nicholas Brownlee) is an escaped political prisoner given sanctuary by the opera’s hero, Mario Cavaradossi (Russell Thomas). While Angelotti evades capture for most the opera, he’s ultimately cornered by Scarpia’s thugs. In our production, Angelotti’s corpse is hung by the neck. When this happens, the singer is replaced by a “stunt double,” or in other words, a mannequin that’s dressed and styled to resemble the singer.
Making the body double is a multi-tiered process that starts with sourcing the dummy.
Properties Coordinator Lisa Coto sources the dummy. We started with an articulated dummy used for search and rescue and CPR training. Coto chose this dummy, because it’s well-made. It’s a heavy dummy (60lbs) and the limbs dangle like a real person; in other words, it’s very lifelike.
After Coto sources the dummy, she delivers it to Costume Design Manager Jeannique Prospere. Prospere and her team make sure that the dummy’s costumes match Angelotti’s costume – an off-white, striped prison uniform, with blue/grey pants and jacket. Since Angelotti has been in prison, it’s not enough for the team to replicate the costumes. They also must distress, age, and dye the costume to make it look like the dummy has suffered the same trauma as the live character of Angelotti.
Share Set in the 1920s aboard the Orient Express, The Abduction from the Seraglio features some interesting props to look out for when seeing the show. Here’s a list of our top three favorites – see if you spot them … Continue reading
Have you ever wondered – “How’d they do that?” Opera brings stories to life, and the magic you see on stage is often the result of incredible ingenuity on the part of our behind-the-scenes artisans. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite objects used in productions—old and new, both onstage and off—to give you a glimpse at what’s involved in staging the operas you love.
Can you guess what these objects are for? (The answers are below, but no cheating!)
- The torches we use onstage have a name that references a crucial safety feature. What are these props called?
- Dead Man’s Torch
- Burnless Bunsen
- Touchable Torch
Witches. Cauldrons. Prophesies. Runes. Our production of Macbeth is the stuff nightmares are made of – in the very best and haunting way. When it comes to props, director Darko Tresjnak wanted objects capable of truly terrifying and also intriguing an audience.
Here’s our list of 5 Macbeth props that will keep you up at night.
Bloody Head in a Burlap Sack
The nightmare-inducing props start at the very beginning of Macbeth, when messengers from King Duncan present Macbeth and Banquo with the head of the executed Thane of Cawdor in a bloody burlap sack. (Macbeth gets the dead man’s title, following the prophecy of the witches.)
(spoiler alert!), Macbeth and Lady Macbeth murder King Duncan in the first act so that Macbeth can seize the throne. During the second scene, Duncan’s body is brought out on a golden bier, very slowly, to emphasize the gore. While a white sheet is placed over the corpse, it is clear that Duncan’s throat has been slashed, and the Special FX blood ensures that his body appears freshly killed.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth present these skulls to the audience at the end of the opera – creepily representing their doomed fate. Flashes of light illuminate these two props and they are the last thing seen as the curtain falls – a haunting image not easily forgotten.
LA Opera uses some of the most intriguing vehicles in its productions. From trucks and cars to modes of transportation only imaginable in the arts world, prop vehicles help tell grand opera stories. They are even sometimes rare and built entirely from scratch or refurbished by our technical crew to serve the needs of a production. Take a look at the vehicles we “drive” in our operas in the roundup below.
REPRODUCING A ONE OF A KIND PEUGEOT FOR LA BOHÈME
When the technical department was tasked with sourcing an 1890 Peugeot Type 2 (one of the earliest French motorized vehicles) for La Bohème, they realized how difficult this would be. There were none of these Peugeots anywhere in America, not even in museums. Working from only an 11”x17” photocopied image, a team at Studio Sereno built a fully battery-powered replica of the original model. This vehicle will be seen live when La Bohème opens May 14.
A 1929 ROLLS ROYCE ROARS ONTO STAGE
Our Roaring Twenties-set production of Verdi’s La Traviata features a 1929 Rolls Royce sourced from a private owner. Director Marta Domingo saw a photograph of the elegant car in 2006 and loved it so much, she made it a starring prop in her production. (What better way for glamorous party girl Violetta to arrive than in this stylish vehicle?)
Moby-Dick is an epic production with some pretty impressive numbers to back it. The Moby-Dick set weighs approximately 95,000 pounds. This number includes the masts, rope, sails and cyc (what’s a cyc, you may ask, find out here) – all of which come together on the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage to form the Pequod. The Pequod’s masts on stage are 36 feet tall, towering over the opera stage, making the ship come to life (click here to learn more about the anatomy of the Pequod).
Everyone knows the Pequod wouldn’t be complete without 1 fiery cauldron to render whale blubber. Speaking of whale blubber, there are 85 pounds of fabricated whale blubber used in the production of Moby-Dick. There’s no whale blubber without harpoons and other weapons the crew aboard the Pequod use to hunt.
Our upcoming production, Norma is a phenomenal production that displays Angela Meade’s and Jamie Barton’s electric vocals. But Norma is a huge production in more ways than voice. There are some rather impressive and interesting numbers to note that an opera goer might not think about during the show.
Before opera fans even see the show, a crew of 46 people helped load in the set.
The giant set includes a unique assortment of props, perhaps the most notable being 1 giant full moon.
Let’s talk about costumes for a second. Norma’s bronze and elaborately beaded bodice alone required 18 hours for a very talented seamstress to assemble.
The story of Norma features 2 fiery divas, not battling out for the love of one man, but instead joining forces in this ultimate girl power opera. The show features a total of 6 principal artists, 43 chorus members, 12 adult supers, 2 child supers and 7 dancers.
Norma opens November 21st and runs through December 13th. Be sure to grab tickets to the performance that the New York Times states is an opera “that every opera lover should hear.” Keep an eye out for the giant moon!
Props can vary in size, shape, color and just about any other fashion imaginable. Some even float (well, kind of). Boats can play a large role in opera, adding an aquatic element to the production, captivating the audience’s attention and taking them on the cruise of a lifetime.
Throughout the years, LA Opera has used many forms and types of boats as props to make each show come to life on the stage. Past productions using boats in the set include II Tabarro (2008), II Postino (2010), The Flying Dutchman (2013), Billy Budd (2014), Jonah and the Whale (2014), Florencia en el Amazonas (2015), Hercules vs Vampires (2015) and, of course, Moby Dick (2015). Some of these productions used actual boats salvaged from retired fishermen, others used rented prop boats, and some even used boat silhouettes projected onto the stage.
Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci are rarely – if ever – done together. The most common pairing for Pagliacci is Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, another tragic love triangle of sorts. This season, LA Opera has forgone tradition by staging two gigantic productions together in its season opening double bill. It’s a marriage of comedy and tragedy and a posthumous reconciling for two composers, who fought against each other so fervently, after Puccini premiered La Bohéme (Leoncavallo also completed a version of the Bohéme story).
It’s also a huge undertaking set-wise.
From their view in the house, audience members are not privy to the pure magic that goes on behind the curtain, while they are in the midst of intermission. But with a view from the bridge, it’s possible to see both the production and the set-up.
The bridge is a platform walkway, connecting our second-floor backstage area with lighting equipment. Before you ask, this seat is not open to the public, but it does provide an interesting view of what it takes to stage a sizeable double bill, such as Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci. Once the curtain falls on the 50-minute Gianni Schicchi, it’s the stage crew’s time to shine. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, Schicchi’s gigantic, 1940s-inspired Florence set is removed and a 1980s-inspired bohemian Pagliacci set takes its place.