Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
Angelique Calladonato, Staff Writer
Students of Cedar Crest College’s Per- forming Arts Department were treated to
a trip to the Metropolitan Opera House on March 22. Students were given a backstage tour by an 8-year veteran tour guide that was full of behind the scenes facts that no one expected.
The tour of the opera house began at the Stage Door, the entrance that all of the performers of the chorus enter hours before each production. The Cedar Crest tour just missed the performers that had been rehears- ing earlier that afternoon for the Ring Cycle, an epic series of plays by Richard Wagner that are loosely based on Norse tales.
The tour continued to the many rehearsal spaces that included places for the orchestra, dancers, and singers to each rehearse on their own. A special peek into the dressing rooms of the stars proved to not be as thrilling when the tour was informed that all actors received the same commodities: a chaise lounge, dressing table, closet, piano, and bathroom with a shower. Though it was not as glamorous as one might expect, it was an intimate look at what happened offstage for the actors, as it was already being set with the actor’s costumes for the show that would be opening just hours after the tour was over.
The costume section of the opera house left much to be desired, with the precious gowns and suits that were estimated at several thousand dollars each – using no synthetic materials – were all stored away to prevent any damage. However, the tour received a sneak-preview of the decadent gown of Cleopatra that was being created for the upcoming season, as well as word from one of the designers of the costume shop, who explained that it took 35 hours (a week’s worth of work) to produce a single wig.
A particular treat that almost no tour receives was that an actor, who had been in rehearsal, took the time to stop and talk to the tour. Despite being in the middle of rehearsing for the Ring Cycle, he took the time to explain the experience and wonder of theatre and the continuity and strength in the themes and tales that permeate through all societies.
The tour of the stage was an overwhelming sight of dozens of workmen flowing in and out of the space with set-pieces of an impressive scale. The tour guide explained how the set pieces of operas over time have become more and more complex, necessitating massive hydraulic lifts that bring large set-pieces from storage to the stage. Every inch of the storage space was filled with props, set-pieces, and tools to put it all together. One particularly interesting prop was two prop-heads that were hanging from the ceiling, which the tour-guide explained had been custom made to look like the actor as well as the actor’s stand in so that the audience would receive a flawless performance if the main actor was unable to perform.
When entering the house to view the gilded ceiling, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, and gold curtains, Cedar Crest students took in the awe-inspiring beauty and symbiosis of creating a beautiful production. All of the chaos and hard work proved to be worth the time and effort made by the many people working to keep the Metropolitan Opera house moving.