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.
- 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