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Volume 20 Issue 1 - September 2014

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them, and then I

them, and then I facilitate theirwork back into mine, in preparingthose folders for the stage.GERARD GAUCI, Opera AtelierSet DesignerWhen is opening night for you?Opening night for Opera Atelier’snew production of Handel’s Alcina is October 23.What type of process is it for you to get ready foropening night of a show?Preparations for a show begin long before openingnight and start with in-depth discussions with myartistic director Marshall Pynkoski. Armed with arecording, a libretto and a sketchbook, we sit in mystudio surrounded by inspirational images culled frombooks, magazines and the Internet and discuss the storyline, the conceptswe want to explore and the overall look of the show. Soon afterwards Icreate a storyboard illustrating the progression of the opera from scene toscene; then over the ensuing months, dozens of meetings and hundredsof phone calls, our ideas get refined and edited. The sketches resolve intofinished renderings and scale models and these in turn are passed onto the painters, carpenters and prop makers who together realize thedesigns for the stage. Generally the sets can be built in four to six monthsand once completed are transported from the shop to the theatre, wherein seven to nine very long days, carpenters, electricians and stage handsset up and rehearse the show.How long in advance do you begin that work? Who do you collaboratewith to make it all happen?The process I described starts about 18 months before opening night.Aside from Marshall, my most important collaborators are my executivedirector Patricia Barretto, who supports the project and sets the budget,and my production manager Evelyn Campbell, who helps me with thepractical aspects of the design, engages the builders and craftspeople andthen plans and oversees the installation and running of the show. Not tobe forgotten are my lighting designer Bonnie Beecher, and for the firsttime in the company’s history, we are excited to be working with filmmakerBen Shirinian, who with Krystal Levy Pictures is producing thevideo projections that will make the magical transformations in Alcinacome to life.How did you get started in this line of work?My position in the theatre world is unusual in that I have workedwith only one company for my entire career. I began working withOpera Atelier in 1985 after the co-artistic directors spotted an illustrationI created as the cover image for an issue of the CBC Radio Guide.They tracked me down and invited me to design some set pieces for anupcoming production of Handel’s The Choice of Hercules performedat the tiny theatre in the basement of the ROM. As the company grew Ihoned my skills, learned the art of stage design and 29 years later findmyself designing this massive new production of Handel’s Alcina.What’s the most challenging part of the job?Far and away the most challenging part of the job is mounting a showof operatic proportions in the vaudeville-scaled confines of our homestage, the beautiful Elgin Theatre in downtown Toronto. It always worksin the end but it really is like piecing together an intricate jigsaw puzzle.I love working in this historic theatre but what wouldn’t I give for anextra ten feet upstage!JOHN SHARPE, Canadian Opera Company Surtitles OperatorWhen is opening night for you personally?There are three or four operators who work on the surtitles, and we’reassigned specific operas during the course of the year. I’m doing oneopera this year – Die Walküre – but that’s not until the spring season.How does it all work for you?I’m calling the show – actually working on each of the performances.My involvement in terms of any individual show normally starts withinthe last weeks of rehearsal. I actually go to the rehearsals with my score,which is marked with all the cues, just to see the layout of the showand the way the singers are interacting with each other. I get to see oneOpera Atelier’s MeghanLindsay and AtelierBallet artists for Handel’sAlcina, based on Gauci’ssketches (left).of those rehearsalsand I also goto two or threeorchestra-castrehearsals, whichare in the FourSeasons Centrewith full orchestraand costumes.Those rehearsalsgive me a chanceto prepare ina live setting,because I’mactually calling theshow as they’reperforming.So then, the pressure is really on for you when you start to do thelive runs?That’s right. A lot of people are under the misconception that thesurtitles that they see are computer-generated – and in truth, they aredone through a computer, but it doesn’t just happen automatically.Because it’s a live performance, we have to be aware of the timing, andit changes from one performance to the next. A singer will perform in aslightly different way depending on how the tension of the evening mightbe, for example. And in the case of a show that might have two casts,we have to be aware of what the differences between the two casts are.Our ears are our most important tools in all of this. And it really showswhat the magic of a live performance is. It’s happening right there, andalmost anything can happen.Which tricks do you use to nail down the timing?I’m in a booth on Ring 3, so I can see the whole performance directlyin front of me, and I have headphones on, hearing the music just a littlebit closer than it would be in the house. I also have a monitor in frontof me that is focussed on the conductor. I can see the conductor as he’sconducting and occasionally a conductor will give cues to the singer asto when to go next, particularly if its a complicated ensemble or somethinglike that. That also helps very much, so that I can watch. There aresome times when the singing line is so exposed and there’s almost nomusical cue – when the singer actually starts the music off – so I watchvery carefully what the singer is doing and I can usually see the personbeginning to breathe. But again, it’s completely live, so I have to be very,very careful of those kinds of things.Any show that was particularly challenging?I would say the most strenuous one that I ever did was when the COCdid the complete Ring Cycle, and I had to do all four operas – each ofthem one or two days apart. The endurance of knowing that every twodays or so I was going to do another opera, five hours in length, wasextremely tiring. I took a little time off from my regular job just so Icould do that one!Like you said, a lot of people don’t realize that it’s not a computer, buta human running a computer program.Yes – during a performance I’m there with the score, and it’s markedwith cues in consultation with the director. It’s a very collaborative thing:creating the text and where it goes. Once the score gets to me, it’s fullymarked and I know where the cues are. I have a set of headphones witha mic, and next to me is an operator from the union who actually operatesthe computer that projects the image. I’m just giving him the cues– I like to say, I say “go” about 600 times in a row! So if you ever peekinto the booth, that’s all you’d hear: my voice saying, “go, go, go”...butthat’s how it all works.Opening nights can arrive in many different shapes and forms.For more on a season opener at a much-loved local venue, see TimDawson’s “Opening Night at Seicho-No-Ie,” on page 59.Sara Constant is social media editor at TheWholeNote and studies music at U of T. She can becontacted at ZINGER14 | September 1, 2014 – October 7, 2014

KOERNER HALL IS:“A beautiful space for music ”THE GLOBE AND MAILARC EnsembleSUN., SEPT. 28, 2014 7:30PM KOERNER HALLFREE CULTURE DAYS PERFORMANCE. (TICKET REQUIRED)The Conservatory’s flagship ensemble presents “The Hell WhereYouth and Laughter Go,” commemorating WWI with works byGeorge Butterworth and Edward Elgar, with Ian Deakin narrating.Presented in association with The Stratford Festival.The Mazzoleni Masters series is generously supported by Doug Bodley.William VerMeulenTUES., OCT. 7, 2014 7:30PMMAZZOLENI CONCERT HALLIn Tune Magazine says “the horn playingof William VerMeulen is miraculous!”In addition to solo works, VerMeulenwill perform Brahms’s Horn Trio withspecial guests Erika Raum andDavid Louie.The Mazzoleni Masters series isgenerously supported by Doug Bodley.SEASON GALA CONCERT!Sir James Galway andLady Jeanne GalwaySAT., OCT. 25, 2014 8PM KOERNER HALLLiving legend Sir James Galway is regarded asboth the supreme interpreter of the classicalflute repertoire and a consummate entertainer.“He has a technical mastery so complete that itmakes everything look easy.” (Los Angeles Times)Taylor AcademyShowcase ConcertSAT., OCT. 18, 2014 4:30PMMAZZOLENI CONCERT HALLFREE (TICKET REQUIRED)The Phil and Eli Taylor PerformanceAcademy for Young Artistspresents concerts by theleading young classical musiciansin Canada. Hear the starsof tomorrow!Rafał BlechaczSUN., OCT. 19, 2014 3PMKOERNER HALLGilmore Artist Award-winning Blechaczis an interpreter of “engaging lucidity”(Der Tagesspiegel), with “a gorgeousgift for the keyboard.” (Corriere dellaSera) He will perform Bach, Beethoven,and Chopin.Presented in association withthe Canadian Chopin Society.Tito Muñoz conducts theRoyal Conservatory Orchestrawith Emily Kruspe, violinFRI., OCT. 24, 2014 8:00 PM /PRELUDE RECITAL 6:45PM KOERNER HALLIncreasingly recognized as one of the most giftedconductors of his generation, Tito Muñoz leads aprogram of Bartók and Shostakovich that includesa performance by violinist Emily Kruspe, winner ofThe Glenn Gould School’s concerto competition.TICKETS START AT ONLY ! 416.408.0208 www.performance.rcmusic.ca273 BLOOR STREET WEST(BLOOR ST. & AVENUE RD.) TORONTO

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