Backstage at LA Opera: the scene behind the scene….
Backstage at LA Opera:
Sneak Preview of La Bohème
By Leticia Marie Sanchez
All text and photography ©2012
Life Imitates Art, and art imitates life in LA Opera’s upcoming production of La Bohème. In Puccini’s opera about bohemian Paris, the two young lovers, Rodolfo and Mimi, will be played by real life married couple Stephen Costello and Ailyn Pérez.The operatic duo began dating in 2005 after they starred together in a production of, you guessed it, La Bohème. Pérez, a recent winner of the Richard Tucker Award, reflected on the moment when she first saw Costello as the leading man of her heart: “The moon was out, and I saw him, and I thought, I don’t know where he’s been.”
Costello and Pérez met at as students at the Academy of Vocal Arts.Costello emphatically pointed to the music departments at their respective public high schools as boosts to their current success. “We were both products of public school systems. We wouldn’t be in this career if we didn’t have strong music departments in the schools that we went to.” Costello and Pérez treated audiences to a musical interlude as did Janai Brugger, winner of the 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions who performed “Musetta’s Waltz.”
While the cast and director gave glimpses of the upcoming onstage magic, Director of Production Rupert Hemmings and Technical Director Jeff Kleeman explained the magic that goes on behind-the-scenes. Four forty-foot trucks had arrived with the Parisian garrets. While we see the stars on stage singing arias, the crew behind the scenes works without fanfare to create vast new worlds.
From the fifty core members of the crew to the dressmakers working at the costume shop to tailor the sumptuous costumes (the Simon Boccanegra gowns, for instance, arrived from London and had to be refitted), it is a team effort that results in majestic details of sight and sound. Sitting in one’s opera seat with a lorgnette or binoculars, one does not even fathom the fast-paced complexities, technological systems, and integration of automation. The seemingly invisible hand is what makes the production seamless.
The sets are sometimes flown in twenty-foot airfreights, the largest box a 747 can handle, as was the case with the set of LA Opera’s “The Fly.” A police escort chaperoned the “Il Postino” set upon its arrival in Loredo, Mexico. With all of the international demands on the elaborate sets, it is only natural that an unusual situation may arise. Mr. Hemmings alluded to the mysterious disappearance of a costume container in a Rotterdam harbor. What happened to the gowns? Hemmings surmised that some “well-dressed pirates” now roam the Netherlands streets.
Above and Left, Backstage at LA Opera