Pagliacci During a Pandemic

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

Well, it's been a few weeks since I've written a blog. My apologies for that. As you probably know, I've been busy producing an opera during a pandemic! :) Today I thought I would share with you the behind the scenes look at how that happened, and our results!

First, I want to say thank you to everyone who came out to the performances last week either in-person or online! We had a wonderful turn out of people and everyone who came to the TN amphitheater for the performances were awesome! Everyone followed all of the guidelines and we social distanced and stayed safe! Thank you, Thank you!

I'd also like to thank the Marble City Opera board of directors for supporting me and the MCO team in creating and producing an opera during such an uncertain time. They trusted me to keep everyone safe and healthy, and that I could do that while putting on a great show and meeting our goals. I am grateful for their trust and support!

I'd like to thank the cast and artistic team for social distancing and self isolating when not in rehearsals, and generally going with flow and helping in every way they could both on and off the stage. It was truly an all hands on deck effort to make this happen.

So, how did we do it? Well, carefully, strategically, and mindfully! We had a clear mitigation plan for both in rehearsals and in performances, and we followed these procedures everyday without fail. We called as few people to rehearsal as possible and only rehearsed indoors with two people at a time. As soon as we had to start adding multiple people to rehearsals it became clear that we needed to rehearse outside. We had chairs set up six feet a part from one another, the singers were 12 feet away from one another, the director, conductor, stage manager, and pianist. We wore masks when we weren't singing (and sometimes when we were marking), and we self isolated when we weren't in rehearsals. Everything was cleaned and sanitized at the end of every rehearsal and performance.

Once we moved into the outdoor venue of the TN amphitheater we had four people setting up the stage. Marble City Opera thrives off of hiring singers who can do multiple jobs. Our administrative director is a singer. On this production she also worked for us as a stage manager, audio sound engineer, stage hand, super, costume dresser, and front of house manager. One of our chorus members and covers also worked as an assistant stage manager, lighting technician, and stage hand. I worked as the Executive Director, Artistic Director, lead soprano, videographer, video editor, box office manager, props master, and production manager, and the stage director worked as a stage hand, scenic designer, and usher. That was all pre-show. At the end of each night the cast, conductor, and managing director would also chip in and help us tear down the set, props, lights, and sound, and safely store everything inside each night. One challenge of performing at an outdoor venue is that you can't leave your equipment up each night. A challenge of this during a pandemic, is that you're trying to limit how many people are involved in the production so that you can lower the risk of infection. Even though we were outside and singing without masks onstage, we all put are masks back on to work, since we would not be able to social distance during the load out.

The cast agreed to have their family and friends come to the closing night performance as to continue with our social distancing and self isolation routines. The success of everyone's safety and health was due to everyone involved agreeing to follow the guidelines and procedures that kept us all safe.

The performance was exhilarating! The energy of the cast onstage was magnetic. So much eye contact and connection between the singers, and even though we were far a part on stage, I have never felt closer, more connected, or intimate with my fellow colleagues. We were all there in every dramatic moment with each other the entire performance. It was electrifying and the audience response was with a standing ovation every night. Each aria, each duet, each moment available for applause the audience took. Cheering into their masks, and jumping to their feet at the end.

I took a moment before the last performance before my entrance to look up at the ceiling tent of the TN amphitheater. As I listened to Jesse Stock's beautiful baritone voice singing Tonio's prologue, I thought to myself, soak it all up, because it's back to quarantine after this! The truth is that sometimes we take for granted the things we love to do as work, but if the pandemic has taught me anything, it's to enjoy every moment on this earth that we have. We don't know how long we have them. Especially the moments getting to make music for a living. It is such a rare gift to have the opportunity to share with an audience our talents and be paid to do so. We hope our audiences were moved for a moment in time that they won't easily forget. We surely won't forget.

Here are some audience reviews:

Brandon Evans as Canio

Kathryn Frady as Nedda & Ryland Pope as Sylvio

From left to right:

Kathryn Frady, Joshua Allen, Brandon Evans, Blayne Ziegenfuss, & Jesse Stock

A snippet from the production!

#MarbleCityOpera #Pagliacci #Pandemic #Opera #MeetOpera

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