Diary of a first timer at the opera…watching it, working it, people watching, pre-show chats, young people’s matinee, terminology…

Joining Opera Lyra in June as the accountant, I realized that things were different here when I was faced with accounts titled:  Surtitle Translation, Principals, Dramaturge and Librettist. Although I am aware of what an accompanist is, I have a really hard time pronouncing it. What is Cav Pag? well I found out last week at the NAC.

A few weeks before, the staff joined the Principals (turns out they are the singers with the major roles) and the stage management for a short meet and greet. For a numbers person, always envying artistic sorts, just being able to go through the back stage door and go into a rehearsal hall was a great thrill. All these people seemed so interesting to me, with an artistic look about them and an artistic way of carrying themselves. After all the introductions there was another new thing to witness-an Equity election of an officer for this production- there is business that must happen even in the arts.

Opening night arrived and after worrying about what to wear and a last minute wardrobe malfunction, turns out I shouldn’t have worried at all- there was everything from tuxedos and evening wear to shorts and runners and crazy fascinator hats. I was encouraged to attend the pre-show chat and learned many things about the history of the two operas that were being presented. After the opera started, the staff retreated to the green room to get some food and learned another lesson- don’t eat from the green room after 6 p.m. At the end of the evening we attended the opening reception and we showed our appreciation for the performers, sponsors and major donors. Many a Cranberry Clown cocktail was consumed and off I went home, looking forward to when I could see the show on Monday night.

Monday night arrived with a more relaxed crowd in general and after spending a couple of hours at the ticket desk, I made my way up to the third row of the mezzanine, which I was assured was a good seat for the opera. Waiting in my seat, I leafed through the house program and towards the back there I was, proudly listed as the accountant of Opera Lyra. I was surprised when the opening music for Cavalleria Rusticana (Cav) brought tears to my eyes immediately and I quickly found out what a Surtitle was- the translation of what was being sung in Italian was projected above the stage and made things so easy to follow. The set, the costumes, the music- everything was so beautiful – especially the voices. The intermezzo (the musical interlude between scenes) brought more tears and by intermission I believe I decided that I was going to like the opera. As promised, killer clowns hit the stage after intermission with the dark rich performances of Pagliacci (Pag). I had a wonderful introduction to the opera.

Friday arrived with buses of students descending on the NAC to watch the silver cast perform Pagliacci. It was magical as they came dressed as clowns, they came with enthusiasm, Spartacat warmed them up and they filled the house.

Closing night sadly came and at the closing reception, I watched as the child performers still wearing their stage makeup proudly, stood with excitement waiting for the Maestro and the Principals to autograph their programs and posters. I felt just like those children, tired and excited and not wanting the week to end. As I tucked myself into the cab to go home, I realized I had learned yet another word this week: “barihunk” thanks to Jonathan Estabrooks.




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