An Opera Primer: Part 2

Major Players at the opera

When going to an opera, there are a multitude of people involved in making what you experience.  Here is an incomplete list of the people who will be involved in this.

For ease of writing I will refer to people that can be either female or male in the masculine

Conductor: This is the guy standing down in front of everyone with his back to the audience. He waves his arms around a lot. Basically, he is the one in charge of keeping everyone together.  Keeping everyone literally in the same place on the same page.  He also makes big musical decisions and shapes musical ideas (like how fast a section will be or how loud it will be).  Singers and orchestral members watch him a lot, he does really interesting stuff.

Orchestra: The people playing the instruments. Depending on which composer they are playing it can range the gamut: from amazingly virtuosic playing to an umm-pah-pah or um-pah-um-pah.  Usually the story is told as much through these musicians as the people on stage.

Director: You won’t see him till the curtain call (if he stuck around for the show to open) they are in charge of making what you see happen onstage.  Their ability/importance can go form being a traffic cop (i.e. you go here-leave there) to making big dramatic decisions about what the whole show is REALLY about.

Principles: These are the people on stage with names and play vital parts in the onstage drama of the opera a.k.a. singers

Comprimario: other people on stage with names, often with more general names like “the doctor, "the armored man" they generally don't sing as much as the principles, but are vital for moving the story along.  From the italian meaning “with the principal” In many operas they provide comic relief

Chorus: these are the other singers on stage. They often play the role of the masses, the crowds, townspeople, slaves, etc etc etc. Who have something to say about what is going on with the principles.

Supers: short for supernumeraries, they are on stage but they don’t sing but they do make the crowds armies and such look bigger, sometimes they will have important acting roles that don’t require talking or singing.

Dancers: well they are the dances, for the ballet. In many operas there are ballets, so these people are vital for that. A lot of operatic music is based on dance

Stage Manager and Crew: These are the people behind the stage you don’t see, they are immensely powerful people when it comes to the actual performance.  It is up to them to create, change and maintain the worlds in which the opera takes place. So we treat them nice and with great respect.

Designers (Set, Lighting, Costume etc etc etc) They will often come out to take a well deserved bow at the curtain calls, they are involved in creating the picture that you see up there.
Coming soon... Opera Primer Part 3 : The parts of an opera