The Art of the Changeover

October 4, 2011 § 3 Comments

Given the serious tone of many of our posts to date, I thought it might be fun to talk about something that I thought was just plain COOL- especially if you’ve seen it in action. I’m talking about the “changeover,” or the act of dismantling one set and putting up another in just a few hours. Repertory theaters do it, traveling shows do it, and sometimes, opera companies do it.

This miracle of set replacement recently inspired the L.A. Times to do a short video showing the entire process at LA Opera that typically takes a few hours compressed to just a minute or two. I’d advise you to watch the video– it’s worth the time.

After reveling in this quick change of worlds, however, my managerial side kicked in. Think about the planning, budgeting and organization that would have to be in place in order to facilitate this process! Paul Horpedahl, the director of production for The Santa Fe Opera, gave me some insight. Essentially, the considerations of changeover time have to be discussed from the initial set design proposal in an opera company that does opera in repertory (as Santa Fe, LA and the Met do). At Santa Fe, they won’t build a set that would take more than an hour and a half to put up and have completely ready. So every afternoon in season, you can see the small pieces of an entirely new world come together at lightning speed. What’s more, they have to consider how to break down the pieces of each set so it can be stored when other sets are onstage AND how to keep the pieces at a manageable size in case they rent the set to another company (as opera companies often do). Then, they have to consider the weight of each piece (we wouldn’t want anyone to strain their back lugging that column around onstage).

And overall, they have to make sure it looks incredible onstage.

So hats off to you, production directors and set designers of the world! You make a new world come together every night, and amaze us all in the process.

-Jen

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§ 3 Responses to The Art of the Changeover

  • Stephanie says:

    As my background is in the performing arts, I spend so much time thinking about how to manage the people that perform and not those necessarily behind the scenes. It is kind of refreshing to see this aspect of an opera as a “performance” of sorts. This is certainly not a job that I can do!

  • Taj says:

    That video would be a great thing to show to prospective/current donors, to show/remind them just how much work goes into making great productions possible.

  • Jenifer Thomas says:

    Stephanie and Taj, I so agree with you both! Opera in many ways can be thought of as just another form of theatre, and with theatre comes all of the behind-the-scenes work. It is a huge undertaking that many patrons and donors never understand! So yes, Taj, this video would be a great thing for development.

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