April 18, 2019
Behind the Scenes of Das Rheingold
Creating a new production is an exciting and time-consuming undertaking for any opera company. This season, Lyric is debuting three brand-new productions: Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Berlioz’s Les Troyens, and Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The first of these shows is onstage now, but we’re going take a quick look back to see how the magic came to life.
During the summer months, creative teams from each production descend upon Chicago to bring their creations to life from sketches and models. Truckloads of scenery and props are loaded in and as the fully assembled set rises onstage, lighting, special effects, mechanical movements, props, costumes, and scene changes are fine-tuned. Tech week is an exciting (and busy) time for any theater company, but it was especially thrilling to see Robert Innes Hopkins adapt and realize the late Johan Engels’ original set design for Lyric’s new RING Cycle. The themes Director David Pountney presents in Das Rheingold will carry through Wagner’s three subsequent operas: Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung.
Next, we bring in the cast. Before the artists ever set foot onstage or sing with the full orchestra, they work extensively with Director David Pountney, choreographer Denni Sayers, and conductor Sir Andrew Davis in a backstage rehearsal room. The large space allows the silent actors to practice manipulating the lifts holding the three Rhinemaidens, the carts that serve as vehicles for the gods, and the large moving towers that will house the giants Fasolt and Fafner.
During this time, the singers rehearse with piano accompaniment and prepare intensely with Sir Andrew Davis and the creative team. The week leading up to opening night queues the move to the stage. After the sitzprobe (a seated rehearsal with orchestra and cast), the show is performed in full with only piano, followed by the final dress rehearsal.