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Opera 101: Inside tech week

Opera secrets revealed! What happens at Lyric during the summer? Each opera has a week-long summer tech. Read on to for a day-by-day breakdown of the preparations for Verdi's Il Trovatore.

Lyric's opera season doesn't officially start until Saturday, September 27, when the eagerly anticipated new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni opens the Diamond Anniversary season. However, the staff is already busy behind the scenes. For Lyric's technical department, the most intensive period is the eight weeks of tech—one week for each mainstage opera.

Here's a day-by-day breakdown of the tech week for Verdi's Il Trovatore. Wondering what exactly tech week is? It's the period of time where the sets are assembled so that the lighting and automation cues can be programmed. One of the key elements of Trovatore that dominates the preparations: the giant turntable that houses almost the entire set. It rotates to change scenes and transition between acts without a break in the action.

(A look at ll Trovatore in performance)

Wednesday, July 23 and Thursday, July 24

The trucks carrying the sets for Il Trovatore arrived at Lyric for unloading.  As one of the largest shows being presented this year, it took two full days to unload. The sets for Porgy and Bess were still on Lyric's stage at the time, finishing up their tech week touches while Trovatore was delivered.

Friday, July 25

The Porgy and Bess set was dismantled starting at 8 a.m. It took the stage crew most of the day on Friday (and even part of the day Saturday!) to completely take apart and pack up Porgy.

(The scenery handling area backstage is always busy during tech.)

Saturday, July 26

As soon as the crew finished taking down Porgy, assembly of the Trovatore sets began. During any tech week, the crew first tackles anything that needs to be flown in (meaning items that will need to come in from above during the performance), while the stage is completely empty. For Trovatore, this includes the Goya-inspired show drop curtain that greets audience members when they arrive and the wraparound cyclorama—the half-cylinder show backdrop that is raised when not in use. There is also a gate and part of a wall that are brought in during part of the show—an impressive technical feat.

(These items need to fly! Clockwise from upper left: The Goya-inspired show curtain; the cyclorama from the stage looking up and from the top of the fly space, looking down.)

Sunday, July 27

The show deck was assembled. Very few operas actually take place on Lyric's real stage floor. A show either has a floor (any covering 0 to 2" in height) or a deck (anything over 2"). Because Trovatore's sets are on a rotating turntable, the show has a 12" deck so that the motorized elements can fit underneath. The deck for Trovatore is divided into pieces that are 6 ft x 6 ft and then assembled to cover most of the stage. Once the deck is built, the rest of the show's elements (walls, rocks, gates, etc.) are put into place. 

(One blueprint of the show's deck and a look at the turntable's motor on stage.)

Monday, July 28

Monday was completely devoted to lighting. The lighting crew comes in and figures out the various lights that need to be focused on stage.

Tuesday, July 29; Wednesday, July 30; and Thursday, July 31

Once the set was completely assembled. work began in earnest. The lighting cues and automation cues were written and programmed. The set was checked for improvements, with detailed notes on what needs to be repaired or retouched for when it is actually back on stage.

(On set repairs in progress)

Friday, August 1

Goodbye Trovatore, hello Tannhäuser. The sets were completely dismantled to make room for the next opera, and the cycle starts again. 

Where does it all go?

 After tech week,Il Trovatore's sets were divided up for storage. Some pieces are still here at Lyric in the cavernous space underneath the theater. Other pieces of the set were loaded into trucks and taken to Lyric's storage yard on the south side. Some portions of what went offsite were set aside in rehearsal trucks so that they can come back for the start of rehearsals and be assembled in Room 200, Lyric's main rehearsal space. The rest will come back about a week before onstage rehearsals begin.

Photo credits:

  • Il Trovatore production still credit Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Il Trovatore show curtain photo credit Robert Kusel / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Backstage photos by Carrie Krol / Lyric Opera of Chicago

An Insider's Guide to IL TROVATORE

Lyric's production of Verdi's Il Trovatore runs October 27 through November 29. Here is your complete insider's guide with articles, photos, audio previews, and more.

Everyone has heard the Anvil Chorus, but Verdi's epic Il Trovatore (on stage October 27-November 29) is so much more than its signature choral piece. Learn more about Lyric's monumental production, originally conceived by director Sir David McVicar and conducted by Asher Fisch.

A cruel curse separates two brothers at birth. One is the privileged Count di Luna (Quinn Kelsey), and the other, the troubadour Manrico (Yonghoon Lee), is raised by the revenge-obsessed gypsy Azucena (Stephanie Blythe). Now bitter enemies, they clash over the love of the same woman, the beautiful Leonora (Amber Wagner). And that's just Act One! Kidnapping, imprisonment, mistaken identities, gypsies, poisonings, witches burning at the stake, star-crossed lovers, revenge—this opera has everything, including some of Verdi's most irresistible music. 

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team

Il Trovatore: A Vocal Feast
Verdi fans have joked for decades that all you need for the composer’s Il Trovatore are the greatest voices in the world – but there’s actually some truth in that! And if you’ve got the right voices, then the feast offered by this opera is sumptuous indeed.  
READ MORE

Lyric’s Chorus delights in Il Trovatore and beyond
Il Trovatore is a choral feast and provides one of the biggest showpieces for the amazing Lyric Opera Chorus this season. Chorus Master Michael Black takes us through some of the many choral highlights in Verdi's masterpiece. READ MORE

Opera 101: Inside tech week
 Opera secrets revealed! What happens at Lyric during the summer? Each mainstage opera has a week-long summer tech period. Lighting cues are set, sets are repaired, and everything is made ready for performances later in the season. Read on to for a day-by-day breakdown of the preparations for Verdi's Il TrovatoreREAD MORE 

Il Trovatore: A Lyric Photo History
Il Trovatore was a hugely popular success when it premiered, and it today remains one of the 20 most-performed operas around the world. Before you come and see Yonghoon Lee, Amber Wagner, Stephanie Blythe, and Quinn Kelsey in Sir David McVicar's production later this season, take a look at some past productions of this great opera throughout Lyric's history, including Maria Callas as Leonora and Jussi Björling as Manrico. READ MORE

Catching up with Chorus Master Michael Black
In this Lyric Lately exclusive, read more about Michael Black's history with Il Trovatore and how he keeps busy during the summer months away from Lyric. READ MORE

"Patter Up!" with Quinn Kelsey

Get to know Lyric's future Count di Luna as he answers rapid fire questions and sings a little Elvis!

 

 

Il Trovatore Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Verdi's Il Trovatore. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.

An Insider's Guide to CAPRICCIO

Go inside Lyric's production of Strauss's  Capriccio (on stage October 6-28) with video and audio previews, articles, photos, and more. 

Capriccio, Richard Strauss's last opera, runs from October 6 through 28 at Lyric. Conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and starring Lyric's creative consultant Renée Fleming in one of her signature roles, this sophisticated opera takes you inside the ultimate dinner party. Countess Madeleine (Fleming) is torn between two men—one a poet and the other a musician. Meanwhile, her brother is out to seduce a famous actress. Will he succeed? And who will she choose? Capriccio also stars Anne Sofie von Otter (Clairon), Bo Skovhus (Count), William Burden (Flamand), Audun Iversen (Olivier), and Peter Rose (La Roche).

Video preview with Renée Fleming

 

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team

A superstar cast for Strauss’s Capriccio
From October 6 through 28, creative consultant Renée Fleming once again graces the stage at Lyric singing one of her greatest roles. But the rest of the cast that surrounds her is no less exciting. Lyric’s production features five outstanding singers who will shine as the other characters in this remarkable “Conversation Piece for Music.” READ MORE

Strauss is for Her: Renée Fleming relishes the master’s final opera, Capriccio
Countess Madeleine in Capriccio is beautiful, elegant, highly intelligent, irresistibly charming, and soaring forth in some of Richard Strauss's most heavenly music. In other words, the role is a natural for Renée Fleming, as Lyric audiences will see and hear when Capriccio returns for the first time in 20 years. READ MORE

 

Capriccio Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Strauss's Capriccio. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.

Popera!

What happens when opera goes pop? There's a grand tradition of opera stars teaming up with pop stars to create memorable collaborations. Here are a few of our favorite results when musical genres collide.

What happens when opera goes pop? There's a grand tradition of opera stars teaming up with pop stars to create memorable collaborations. Here are a few of our favorite examples (both exciting and unexpected) of when what happens when musical genres collide!

Lyric's creative consultant Renée Fleming is known for her diverse musical interests. Here she is with the late Lou Reed perform "The Perfect Day" in Prague in 2009. The performance was part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution. 

 

And she has also partnered with crooner Josh Groban, performing a medley from Brigadoon.

 

The adventurous Anne Sofie von Otter (starring as Clairon in Strauss's Capriccio  from October 6-28)  is not afraid to expand her musical horizons. She collaborated on an album with Elvis Costello in 2001, and they performed the title track, "For the Stars," on The Late Show with David Letterman.

 

As a native of Sweden, it only seems natural that she would release an album of covers of ABBA songs and others written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. Here is her cover of  ABBA's "Like An Angel Passing Through My Room."

 

To celebrate Barcelona being chosen for the 1988 Olympics, pop icon Freddie Mercury and the great soprano (and Barcelona native) Montserrat Caballé teamed up to record a theme song, fittingly titled "Barcelona." They went on to record an entire album together, which would be Mercury's last.

 

Luciano Pavarotti is the king of pop duets. His "Pavarotti and Friends" concerts featured duets with U2, Lou Reed (another "Perfect Day" rendition), Sheryl Crow, and others. Here he is performing "It's a Man's World" with James Brown.

 

And he performed "I Hate You, Then I Love You" with diva Céline Dion.

 

Like Pavarotti, who joined him as one of "The Three Tenors," Plácido Domingo has also achieved a great deal of crossover success. He had a hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Perhaps Love," a duet with John Denver recorded in 1981.

 

And he's performed with his Muppet alter ego Plácido Flamingo on Sesame Street.

 

(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

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