The Crew View


Volunteering for West Bay Opera is always entertaining…

Madama Butterfly (2009)
Sign This opera is our third repeat at West Bay Opera, but we love the music even though it always makes us cry. We had many versions to listen to while Stan worked on the titles and I worked on pages for the costumes, the set, and to explain the story of Madama Butterfly. When we arrived for the dress rehearsal, Prince Yamadori’s chair was enjoying the fresh air, while the parasols napped back stage.The origami flowers waited patiently while the geishas took a break. Filmo came to help fire the cannon the most exciting part of the opera for me.
Orfeo ed Euridice (2009)
Sign We had to hunt this opera down to listen to as I worked on the pages to show the set and to explain the story of Orfeo ed Euridice, though we did know the myth. Backstage, Amore’s bike waits for the God of Love, onstage it is just a blur. The Elysian Fields projection lights up the back door as the blue snake marks the path through the petals to the flat dock.
Carmen (2008)
Sign This show was our second repeat with West Bay Opera, since we worked the 1999 Carmen production. We had several versions of this opera to choose from while I worked on the pages to show the costumes and the set, while Stan prepared the titles. We missed the rehearsals and opening night since we were in Baltimore being awarded the Anthony Award for Best Mystery Website. So the Ghost Light was in charge most of the time. Here are some performance pictures .
Der fliegende Holländer (2008)
Sign We had several versions of this opera to choose from while I worked on the pages to show the costumes, the set, and to explain the story of Der fliegende Holländer and Stan prepared the titles. We used a thunder machine for exciting bits like the Dutchman and his Ghost Ship. The wave and gull sound effects came through Tod’s O3D. In the basement, along with the usual brass, was my very first tuba. The abandoned art by the back door was a mystery to everyone.
Così fan tutte (2008)
Sign This opera is our first West Bay Opera repeat, since we also worked the 2000 Così fan tutte production. It was interesting to notice the differences as I worked on the pages to show the costumes, the set, and to explain the story of Così fan tutte. Since I love this opera, the repeat is fine with me, but Stan thinks there just might be too many words. In the paint shop, the heads are in charge and have arranged a Still Life with Ladder. The mustaches await their call in the tech office, and the boat drowses USR, and the columns lounge against the back wall. And I finally remembered to take a picture of the Lucie Stern Theatre.
Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci (2007)
sign This pair was confusing, since we had two operas to listen to while I worked on pages to show the costumes and the set and Stan prepared the titles. Getting the truck in place for Pagliacci was a daily struggle for Will and Laszlo. The chicken always startled me backstage, but was hilarious onstage.
The Queen of Spades (2007)
Queen To prepare for this opera we dug out my old copy of The Complete Prose Tales of Alexandr Sergeyevitch Pushkin to reread “The Queen of Spades,” the story the opera is based on. Then we listened to Tchaikovsky’s music while I worked on pages to show the costumes, the set, and to explain the story of The Queen of Spades and Stan prepared the titles. The opera was performed in Russian, but luckily we had a trilingual French Rat to help with sound, especially during the Big Bell cue. Ian helped us setup and Emily was the titles overseer. Pushkin
Macbeth (2006)
Sign We knew the Scottish play, of course, but weren’t too familiar with this opera before listening to it while I worked on pages to show the costumes, the set, and to explain the story of Macbeth and Stan prepared the titles. Ian helped us setup and Emily was the titles overseer.
The Rake’s Progress (2006)
Rake This is one of Stan’s favorite operas, so we had several versions of this opera to listen to while I worked on the pages to show the costumes, the set, and to explain The Story of The Rake’s Progress and Stan prepared the titles. My favorite props were the lampshades that silenced Baba the Turk and started a new fashion in hats. Here are some performance pictures and the program for the opera.
Manon Lescaut (2006)
Sign We had several versions of this opera to choose from while I worked on the pages to show the costumes, the set, and to explain The Story of Manon Lescaut and Stan prepared the titles. We had to buy some new talkies since someone stole our old ones. There was a cute gobo waiting for us in the booth. My favorite set piece was the chandelier which looked much better on stage than hanging around in the paint shop. Here are some performance pictures and the program for the opera.
The Magic Flute (2005)
Flute We listened to several versions of this opera while I worked on the pages to show the costumes, the set model, and to explain the story of The Magic Flute. We even watched the Bergman movie and were disconcerted by familiar songs sung in Swedish. For some reason a strange basket of limbs was delivered to the lobby during rehearsals. Ian and I figured out how to load sound files on the sampler since I had lots of fun sound cues full of crashing thunder to herald the arrival and departure of the Queen of the Night. We borrowed a beautiful celeste to play the sound of Papageno’s Magic Bells. The booth serpent helped to call the sound cues while the bed snake prepared to pounce on Tamino.
The Threepenny Opera (2005)
Sign We had to check this opera out of the library to listen to while I worked on the pages to show the costumes, the set sketches, and the set model, and to explain the story of The Threepenny Opera, though we did have many many versions of “Mack the Knife.” Stan got some nifty title screens for this show. Since the orchestra was onstage I didn’t have much to do—only one wire so the conductor could hear the singers downstage. I had plenty of time to capture the yellow chain and paint spotch in the paint shop. The sets and lighting for this opera were tremendous—here is a closeup of the Bordello stairs and the stage manager adjusting the moon. The bordello girls were often just a blur of color and light. My favorite prop for this show was Victoria’s messenger’s horse, though the red couch was a close second. The spotlight also adored the couch.
Lucia di Lammermoor (2005)
Sign After watching the I Claudius series, we looked in the library for some pictures of Roman eagles as a possible design for the 2004 Solstice card. We didn’t find the eagles, but a book on Irish art reminded us of a newspaper article describing our next show as Lucia di Lammermoo, so we ended up with a Flying Cow instead. We watched Akira’s video of Edita Gruberova as Lucia while I worked on the page to explain the story of Lucia di Lammermoor and a page with the costume sketches. We had some help in the booth this show. Stan’s faithful Piccolo brought the titles and Ice Bat kept the patch cables in line. My favorite red chair was often hanging out in the Green Room while the candlesticks hid out in the paint shop.
La Clemenza di Tito (2004)
Since this was a concert opera, there were no set or costume sketches, but we did have a page to explain the story of La Clemenza di Tito. We got interested in Roman history while working on this opera, and watched the PBS I Claudius series.
Don Giovanni (2004)
Sign We had several versions of this opera to listen to while working on the pages to show the set sketches, and the set model, and to explain the story of Don Giovanni. The projection of the Commendatore was the trickiest part for the crew. ASM Tricia Tani holds some snacks for Don Giovanni’s party while the wine waits backstage.
The Barber of Seville (2004)
Sign We had lots of options to listen to while I worked on the pages to show the set sketches, and the set model, and to explain the story of The Barber of Seville. I loved the colors of the set for this opera. Figaro’s wagon waited patiently in the Green Room and a barber pole appeared here and there. The bass liked to hang out in my favorite Keep This Space Clear corner backstage. We borrrowed a thunder machine for the storm scene and I had a sound effect to create the breaking glass diversion. Before the last Sunday performance the spot ops made a rare appearance onstage.
Viva la mamma! (2003)

We had to borrow a CD to listen to while working on the page to explain the story of Viva la mamma. We were amazed when we entered the Booth to find a new light board that looks capable of piloting the Starship Enterprise. Only Corinne has a license to operate it! The props in this show were great. Luigia had a hilarious pair of glasses, Stefano wore a wonderful breastplate, and Mamma rescued the show with her box of jewels. Backstage there was some hair waiting to make an entrance and a beautiful amber light.

During the Fall Festival, footprints appeared on the stage so the SuperStar contestants would know where to stand. And the genie looked romantic in Corrine’s special light.

La Périchole (2003)
Sign We had to go out and buy a CD to listen to while working on the pages to show the set sketches, and the set model, and to explain the story of La Périchole. I was glad to hear the “Hop La” refrain, which will keep MR amused while running spots in the beams. As usual, there was a mysterious new Do Not Move sign on the rail as well as a pair of strange new clamps. While wandering around aimlessly before the shows, I found this wonderful Still Life with Work Light and Flags backstage and a great Composition with Two Brooms onstage. The set is marvelous up close and seen from a distance as Stan focuses the supertitles and Will checks the molding. My favorite set detail is the rat perched on top of the fountain fondly referred to as the pissoire by the crew. You can tell this is not a performance, since Stan is not wearing black and the booth is bright! The new booth mascot is the glow in the dark gecko Michele gave me to keep the booth crew amused.
Un ballo in maschera (2003)
Sign I listened mainly to Act Two while I worked on the pages to show the set sketches and explain the story of Un ballo in maschera. We found Corrine a new friend to help her with the Light Board. She probably looks a bit dazed from the fumes caused by de-oxidizing the patch panel. Some of the crew members are having such a good time that they hang out by the Sign-In Board for hours on end. Mia carried this giant hand as part of her Fortune Teller’s costume for the masked ball. And we used lots of dry ice to make the foggy, misty, swirly atmosphere.
Tosca (2002)
Sign We had lots of versions of this opera to listen to while I worked on the pages to show the set sketches and explain the story of Tosca. The Te Deum at the end of Act 1 is my very favorite part. I listened to it over and over and over and over and … My favorite set piece was the Madonna who always looked comfortable—waiting patiently for her cue in the paint shop, listening to the paint cans, or in her proper place in the church. But the Angelotti dummy never seemed to be able to relax. Chad made Stan a new snoot for the projectors to mask the extra light and Laszlo helped check the centering on the screens. Stan’s keypad became even more colorful this show. Drew and I couldn’t figure out for the longest time how to adjust the volume on the lobby TV. In the dark using only a flashlight (with Jack’s help), we finally found it under the table in the booth—it’s the bit marked with yellow tape. I had the cannon and church bells to keep me amused, but still had enough extra time to count all of the various controls I have to play with on the sound board: 25 sliders, 174 knobs, and 200 buttons! My favorite percussion bit was Norm’s sheep bells. There is a new mark on the wall outside the booth—we hope it isn’t as ominous a sign as it appears to be. If so we can always use the escape stairs in the parking lot.
La bohème (2002)
Sign We had lots of versions of this opera to listen to while I worked on the pages to show the set sketches and explain the story of La bohème. With this show, Stan made the transition to computerized supertitles. They are easier to fix if there are errors, but with 731 to show, he doesn’t have much time to see what they look like. Stan had to make do with a substitute TV monitor to watch the conductor since his favorite little red one was hanging out in the paint shop with Parpignol’s toy cart, which somehow also managed to get squashed into the corner by the Green Room door. My favorite part of the set is the Chapeau du Chat which looks inviting from any angle or as part of the Latin Quarter street. Janny sits on the Genie next to Café Momus, ready to shine her spot on Mimì and Rodolfo. On top of his normal percussion assortment, Norm plays the bicchieri—in the score described as “glasses played with a table knife,” but Norm uses sticks. In the corner of the stage behind the percussion is a dressing room for the chorus quick change. The props table holds the snow machine (which I’m positive has more wires than it really needs) and some pastries that look almost good enough to eat. Jack is still in Texas, so I had to rely on outside assistance to keep the cables in proper order.
Marriage of Figaro (2002)
Sign We had lots of versions of this opera to listen to while working on the pages to show the set and explain the story of Figaro. I love the details in Callie Floor’s costume sketches, especially the villagers. This was my first show without Jack, and I was very nervous, so Michele bought me some new talkie toys to make me feel better. To start the show, the crew built incredible piles of junk that the chorus carted away during the overture. Some of the special bits liked to hang out next to the timpani TV. To make the suspicious sound in the Countess’s closet, the crew experimented with various objects inside the crash box, but nothing was loud enough until finally Steve knocked the whole crash box over! The set was so big that the ASM had to build a cosy nest inside the DSL closet. The statue added a touch of class to the paint shop while waiting for its grand entrance in Act IV. I loved looking at things close up almost as much as my usual view from the booth. At the first Sunday performance, the button Stan uses to advance the supertitle slides gave up the ghost. The new change button doesn’t give as much positive feedback, but it does work!
Faust (2001)
Sign I had to listen to this opera on LP while working on the page to explain the story of Faust since we didn’t have it on CD—not a good sign! But I loved Anna Björnsdotter’s costume sketches. My favorite is probably the line of village women. The real costumes are even more amazing—each one is different and they are much softer than they look. Jean-François Revon’s church drop was my favorite set bit at first, especially the view from the orchestra pit. The Hell Gate scared me when we first met, but then I caught it creeping up on the pit rope one evening and we bonded. Now I think it is adorable as it prepares to devour the chairs and the Heaven Gate during a break in the sitzprobe. The Heaven Gate is nice, but just doesn't have as much personality. Don is playing timpani in the corner backstage next to the wonderful still life with dustpan. The rectangle taped down stage left for the percussion was big enough for the instruments or Norm, but not both so we had to enlarge it. The organ is behind the cyc in a very long and narrow space and the harp is snugged into the downstage corner behind the ASM. During the Garden Scene a light comes on behind Stan in the booth, so he has a “chapeau” cue to remind himself to put on his cap. The light does give him a healthy glow as he runs the supertitles.
Les contes d’Hoffmann (2001)
Sign While listening to this opera on CD, I worked on a page to explain the story of Les contes d’Hoffmann. Jean-François Revon designed an amazing set and I have fallen in love with Callie Floor’s Cochenille costume. The set takes up the whole stage, so there wasn’t room for the percussion. For the first time in my tenure, the flat dock was emptied, except for the flats. An amazing new elevator with impressive controls appeared in the basement to hoist things like Antonia’s chair. The props designed by Valda Lake are incredible. My favorite is Olympia’s harp, though her heart and arm are also wonderful. During rehearsals it is easy to stumble over surreal objects like the flat chorus costumes, Antonia’s piano, the cage of love, and a very large earlobe hiding behind the lights.
Tartuffe (2001)
Sign This opera has some wonderful rhyming couplets which Stan busily typed into the supertitles while I played around with pictures to illustrate the story of Tartuffe. My father gave me a frog fetish that I named Tartuffe, though you can see that he is a totally sincere creature and not a “sanctimonious toad.” Since the whole opera takes place in one day, the set does not move. Here is stage left, stage right, and the patio. While waiting for calls, the singers can watch the stage from the monitor in the Green Room. The harp is tucked into the downstage left corner. Don has so many instruments to play (including the temple blocks and glockenspiel) that he is usually just a blur. The percussion area on stage is outlined with tape, right next to another of those mysterious clear walls. The stage left stair entrance for the singers glow with an eerie blue and green during performances. My only sound effect is Tartuffe’s knock of fate so I had plenty of time during the piano dress rehearsals to take pictures of the paint shop wall and this great still life with dusters. The opera sounded and looked great.
La Traviata (2000)
Sign For this show Jack found some wonderful hot pink spike tape to mark important sound-only areas of the stage. That bit delineated the sight line in the timpani area. The percussion is further backstage, right next to the very important clear space. Stan as usual spent time in the beams getting the supertitle projectors focused. There are new bright red handles for 12 of the flies; one controls the wonderful chandelier in Violetta’s house. The Paris backdrop makes Stan think of Pieter Bruegel’s Tower of Babel, which was based on the Colosseum. When they were first hung, the mirrors in Flora’s hours looked very wrinkled, but after several treatments with a hair dryer (which Michele says was actually a heat gun) they were transformed into beautiful reflective surfaces. I love watching the crew prepare the stage. They are such tiny people from my elevated position in the booth. Chris shared the little red opera glasses he borrowed from a London theatre, but they are really only strong enough to peer across the booth to see what color Pixie Stick Chris is eating.
Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (2000)
Sign “Mahagonny” means “spider web” and the city of Mahagonny spreads its web throughout the opera. The city begins with a only a hand-painted sign, but soon adds a motel with a kicking leg sign and a gambling saloon which offers free cash. Hurricanes (which look a lot like tornados to me) threaten the city, and the men’s chorus gets to wear these amazing city hats. I love the neon signs even when they are not lit. The orchestra is at the back of the stage, at the end of the road, the orchestra lights twinkle through the scrim. My baby grand piano looks beautiful and sounds even better. My big moment is making sure the mandolin is not overwhelmed by the bandoneon during their duet while O’Brien eats “two calves, head to crupper.” And Chris even trusted his silver cup to me long enough to dress it up and take a picture. It was difficult to take my traditional sign picture since the courtyard is all fenced off.

And here is my very first web movie (filmed by Jack) — the WBO crew getting the stage ready for the opera.

Così fan tutte (2000)
Sign Rehearsals for this opera were exciting since it rained like crazy. When we left for the Sunday sitzprobe at 6:00 PM, the San Francisquito Creek at the Chaucer bridge was at -6 feet. Coming home after the sitz at 11:00 PM the water was nearly to the top and we saw neighbors we hadn’t seen since the last flood! The opera opens with a dim view of the pool room lit by candle light. My favorite part of the set is the wonderful little pool table. It appears and reappears as the set rotates with a touch of this magic red lever, which lives back stage right next a totally mystifying Do NOT Fly sign. There is also a tempting red ladder (which I am not allowed to climb) ascending through the ceiling. Here are my trumpets waiting patiently for their turn and my harpsichord. Red is the new color scheme in the booth. As he runs the supertitles, Stan can follow the conductor on his little red TV and Chris makes neat packages of used batteries while waiting for the next light cue.
Madama Butterfly (1999)
Sign Stan was hard at work preparing the supertitles for the opera, while I amused myself wondering how Jack would make a harbor in the 1920s sound completely different from a harbor in the 1970s. Our new harp microphone makes every note so crystal clear that unwary sound designers tend to bliss out. I am responsible for many jumbles of wires, and even understand what this bunch does! My smallest instrument is a bird whistle and one of the most impressive is the gong. My most exciting moment is firing the cannon that signals the arrival of Pinkerton’s ship in Nagasaki harbor. The lighting in this production is beautiful; one of my favorite parts is the sunset sequence during the humming chorus. Butterfly’s dream of the ship at the beginning of Act III is also amazing. Will doesn’t have the title role in this opera, but he does have the whole stage to himself for an entire 2 minutes during the prologue. At night only the ghost light burns on the stage in the empty house.
The Consul (1999)
This description made me wonder...
The Consul offers proof that long-lined melody, backed by dramatic orchestration [with] plodding rhythms and dark, repetitious motifs can convey the accumulating weight of frustration. The power of The Consul is in the way its score and taut, compelling libretto mesh, expressing contemporary life as powerfully as screaming dissonance or chaotic rhythms. — Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times
Consul Sign Stan started typing in the supertitles for this opera during spring break in New York City. Now he has only himself to blame if there are too many slides! Running the sound board for this opera is fun since I get to use Jack’s cool sampler to run the sound effects. Ringing the phone at exactly the right moment is my most nerve-wracking task. The percussion is squashed into a triangle of the stage screened by drapes. (A wall drops through a trap door into the basement spot where the percussion lived last show.) The harp is against the stage wall. Somehow the line of “Kafka Zombies” manages to march between the two. The set is totally grey and taupe, which sounds boring but is alternately beautiful or menacing as the lighting changes. And I have fallen in love with the wonderful little stove which I may adopt at show’s end. The rate that I cook it might be some before anyone noticed it was a stage prop! Will spends most of his time onstage as a henchman for the secret police but moonlights as the Consul. And Otak had to master window repair skills for his role as Assan.
Carmen (1999)
Carmen Sign We wondered before this opera if the banderilleros, the picadores, and the matador would look anything like Robert Lawson’s illustrations from Stan’s old copy of Munro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand. (They didn’t.) After stringing cables all over the theater, the timpani and percussion and the harp under the stage could see the conductor and hear the rest of the orchestra. Going down the stairway is like entering another world. But I spent most of my time in the booth behind the Authorized Personnel warning sign, running the Sound Board. Disaster struck at the first Piano Dress Rehearsal when I slipped off the ladder up to the beams and damaged the radial head in my elbow. But I did get to wear this dynamite fuchsia cast for four weeks! (Which Jack says was quite useful for hanging cable coils during strike…) And I was showered with cards and flowers and even a new pet, Spike, who was around for some time until I learned to wield a knife with my left hand. You can see the permanent screw that now holds my radial head together quite well in these x-rays of my elbow.
The Italian Girl in Algiers (1998)
Screw Sign
Jack took on the task of teaching me to be the Sound Board Operator for this opera. I sat in the booth above the house and had a great view of the stage. The sound board had loads of cool buttons and knobs and dials and levers. The orchestra pit at West Bay Opera is too small to fit the whole orchestra. My job was to make sure the trumpet players (in the basement underneath the stage) and the percussion (in the storage room behind the stage) could hear the rest of the orchestra and that the audience could hear them. They had little TV monitors to watch the conductor. On the other side of the booth, Stan was running the supertitles and Chris was running the lightboard. One thing that made this opera so much fun was singing along with Donald Pippin’s wonderful English version of the libretto.
The Turn of the Screw (1998)
Screw Sign
Projecting the ghost words for The Turn of the Screw was great fun. I sat all alone high up in the beams. I could look straight down at the first few rows of seats in the house. Stan was in the light booth below, watching the conductor and reading the score to be ready to advance the words at exactly the right spot. Then I floated the ghost words across the stage. (Michael J. Vaughn’s review in the Palo Alto Weekly (5/29/98) referred to the drifting ghost words as poltergeist butterflies.) After several rehearsals, one bit the ghosts sang about “the ceremony of innocence” kept running around our brains. Stan tracked it down to a poem by Yeats. On opening night an offering appeared for the stage director, Jonathon Field. And Stan shared an email from Emily recalling wonderful performances by Stacy Rigg (the Governess) while at Oberlin.
Il Trovatore (1998)
Il Trovatore Sign
Our first West Bay Opera experience was learning to run the supertitles for Il Trovatore. The fun part was climbing up the ladder to the catwalk above the theater and loading the slides into the carousels. It wasn’t easy to focus the slides on the supertitle screens. And there were rows and rows of lights and other mysterious stuff. But most of the time was spent in the booth following the score intently and fading in the next supertitle at just the right moment. After the last performance we helped to strike the set. I became an expert at coiling the cables for all of these lights hanging above the stage.

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