A running diary of the first ever double-final-dress-rehearsal day in Met Opera history (or at least that anyone can remember!)
There are two season premieres at the Metropolitan Opera this week: Carmen on Thursday (1/19) and Rigoletto on Friday (1/20). Back-to-back openings? Pretty unusual! But what it took to prepare for them was even more unusual. On Monday (1/16) the Met had no public performance in the evening. However, that doesn't mean all was quiet; in the morning was the final dress rehearsal for Carmen and, in the evening, Rigoletto. Two final dress rehearsals in one day! As far as I could discover that had never happened before! For the occasion I decided to keep a running diary of the day 1 . So, without further ado:
Part the First: Carmen Final Dress Rehearsal
10:00 a.m. EST - The calm before the storm. Time for a cup of tea 2 , breakfast, and a chance to read through final notes from the director.
10:02 - That was enough relaxing! Let’s get this costume on! First up: a bored and somewhat lascivious 3 soldier in Seville.
10:17 - Dressed and ready to go. Wait, what do you mean the rehearsal isn’t started yet? All right! Thirteen more minutes to finish my tea!
10:27 - Called to stage… I’ll check back in after the scene!
11:01 - Back in the dressing room. To recap: the soldiers were very unhelpful to Michaela, the factory girls sang a very beautiful chorus, Carmen did her sexy Habanara thing then met Don José. Somehow I don’t think this relationship is going to end well.
11:02 - No more soldier for me (until Act 4). Costume change to gypsy with a great hat.
11:05 - The female chorus called to stage for the fight at the end of Act 1. I’m still in mid-gypsy costume change. Get it ladies!
11:12 - Gypsy costume change finished. Ready to go down to stage and watch some amazing flamenco dancing from our ballet corps.
11:15 - Quick recap of what’s happened on stage while we were off: Big fight; Carmen wins but is arrested by Zuniga. However, she sings the Segedilla so well that Don Jose helps her escape. End of Act 1.
11:22 - Called to stage. This morning I’m going for “mysterious gypsy” 4 ; let’s see how it goes! I’ll be back in a bit!
11:50 - Back in the dressing room 5 . Time for another costume change: going from regular gypsy to smuggler-gypsy.
11:58 - Not a ton of plot during that last scene by the way. But we did get to hear and sing a great “Votre toast” with our resident toreador Escamillo. On stage things are really heating up now between Carmen and José. Looks like he’s going to join in on all the smuggler fun in Act 3 after all!
12:00 - Gypsy smugglers called to stage. Zuniga is going to try to arrest all of us which… umm… is not going to go well for him…
12:15 - Done with Act 2! Intermission! Time for a quick lunch to tank up for Act 3 smuggling in the hills outside Seville.
12:17 - Let’s see what’s in the cafeteria: Penne Bolognese, garbanzo beans and roasted Zucchini… hmm… not the most Carmen-Spanish-infused meal I’ve ever seen. Works well for Rigoletto this evening though!
12:29 - Heading to stage soon. This is going to be a long one (we are onstage or waiting in the wings offstage for the rest of the opera) so I’ll see you at the end of the show. Not a ton of recap necessary for the second half. Things go downhill in the Carmen/José relationship 6 , Escamillo plays third wheel, Michaela plays fourth wheel, and eventually José has just had enough and loses it.
12:35 - In the meantime the chorus does a lot of smuggling, I fall asleep on stage 7 , wake up, and then do some more smuggling. In act 4 (after a quick change from gypsy into soldiers and townspeople costumes) 8 we are very excited about the bullfight 9 .
12:44 - On our way to stage for Act 3. No one’s going to catch this smuggler!
2:04 - And we’re back. Great show! Can’t wait for opening night on Thursday!
2:13 - Out of costume and heading home. We have 4 hours between now and our next call. Big afternoon planned running errands and memorizing music for I Puritani (which opens on February 10th) 10 . Talk to you in a few hours!
Part the Second: Rigoletto Final Dress Rehearsal
6:28 - Hi everyone! The chorus has returned to the opera house. Tonight is the second half of our Final Dress Rehearsal double bill: Rigoletto! It’s Michael Mayer’s 60’s Las Vegas production so that means fantastic suits, greased hair, mixed drinks and beautiful showgirls.
6:31 - Time to get into costume. There are no real costume changes in Rigoletto so I better do this one well.
6:39 - Tuxedo on, Purple alligator skin shoes laced, hair slicked, only one thing remains… tying my own bowtie…
6:42 - Still working on that bowtie
6:45 - ^@#^%@$^#@ bowtie...
6:48 - I DID IT!!!!
6:49 - I'm not going to lie... things got a little hairy over the past 10 minutes. But be not afraid; I have triumphed over the forces of... umm... the tyranny of... uhhh... the bow tie. And yes, I could have asked my dresser to tie it and she would have been able to do it in 30 seconds but somehow I feel... more.. I don't know... like James Bond 11 this way I guess.
6:52 - Heading down to stage soon. A lot happens in the first act but the cliff notes is that Rigoletto is the court jester but makes fun of the wrong guy who curses him. Getting cursed early on in a Verdi opera is always a bad thing.
6:55 - Places! Let’s get this thing started!
7:22 - Scene 1 finished; back in the dressing room. All sorts of beautiful music happening onstage right now. Some fantastic duets and then the famously sublime aria “Caro nome” by Gilda. When we go back down the stage we will decide that her aia is so beautiful that we want to sing a chorus of our own (“Zitti, zitti”), and then abduct her. Rigoletto, Gilda’s father, is understandably unhappy about this development!
8:04 - Act 1 finished. Things are already beginning to go south for Rigoletto... I wonder if they get better in Act 2 14 .
8:05 - Time for dinner. Let's see what's hot at the cafeteria.
8:07 - huh... penne bolognese, garbanzo beans and roasted zucchini... how... umm... exciting...
8:14 - Things that get better with age: fine wine, revenge and... penne bolognese?
8:18 - So, the second half of Rigoletto is pretty wild. I don’t really want to attempt a synopsis 15 but suffice it to say things get very dark on the way to a tragic ending 16 . In the meantime the chorus sleep on stage 17 , act very hung-over, taunt Rigoletto, murder Monterone, and then, in a very abrupt change of pace, vocally personify a storm from offstage. As I said, things get pretty wild.
8:29 - Called to stage for the Act 2! Here goes!
9:08 - Back in the dressing room for the final intermission. I have to say, I always feel a little sleazy after that last scene. We are pretty unrepentantly cruel to poor Rigoletto who, while maybe not the nicest guy in the world, doesn’t merit the fate he gets in this opera. Still, nothing a nice ginger lemon herbal tea during the set change won’t fix 18 .
9:10 - Speaking of a set change, I really would be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing work the stage crew is doing today. Both Carmen and Rigoletto are huge operas with correspondingly massive sets. Plus, dress rehearsals are always tricky for scenery purposes because of the lack of rehearsal. And yet they’ve been on top of things and as efficient as ever. Bravi!
9:21 - Time to do one last clothing change. This, however, is a welcome one: The chorus sing our role of “personification of the storm” from offstage, meaning we can be in street clothes. So off with the tux and on with my own clothes; we’re in the home stretch!
9:36 - My tea is finished. Places have been called for the Duke. He sings the not-unfamous aria "La donna è mobile" and then we’re next.
9:48 - To the stage!
10:03 - And we are done. Long but very fulfilling day. It looks like we have two very strong shows to open at the end of the week. So, after an unprecedented day at the Metropolitan Opera, I wish you all a very lovely evening!
Edward Hanlon, graduate of McGill University and University of Michigan, is a happy Long Island boy making good with the Metropolitan Opera. Favorite roles include Figaro, Sparafucile, Dick Deadeye, Sarastro and Nick Bottom with companies such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Lincoln Center Theatre, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Des Moines Metro Opera and the Glimmerglass Festival. He dreams of singing another Figaro with his beautiful wife, soprano Tanya Roberts. His first novel is is due to be released
at the end of the 2017-18 season
... umm... someday? Check out his website and follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
I don't care what everyone else says. Coffee tastes gross (and no amount of milk and sugar will change that). ↩
… I think my motivation for the entire time I’m on stage is “check out the pretty girls” ↩
It’s possible that “mysterious gypsy” might end up looking suspiciously like “tired gypsy” though. ↩
… and for those wondering, I was very mysterious and not at all tired during that last scene. ↩
huh… and I had such a good feeling about those two. ↩
I swear I am just acting ↩
Shout out to our helpful, hardworking and patient dressers! ↩
… and remarkably oblivious to the very loud domestic tragedy occurring between José and Carmen! ↩
I’m probably going to sneak a nap in there too! ↩
... or a waiter ↩
... the better to abduct Gilda with ↩
.. or, as I like to call it, DINNER TIME! ↩
Spoiler alert: they do not. ↩
I don’t think intermission is long enough for that. ↩
What did I tell you about getting cursed in a Verdi opera? NOT A GOOD THING! ↩
Yes. Again. ↩
For me that is. All the ginger lemon tea in the world won’t help Rigoletto and Gilda now. ↩