West Bay Opera Chorus Glossary

This is a glossary of opera theater terms as used specifically at West Bay Opera and Lucie Stern Theatre. For links to a few more general glossaries, see below.
physical movements of cast members on stage given by the director. A blocking rehearsal establishes these; it is the first step in staging.
a rehearsal occurring in the course of a run of performances, either as a refresher after a long gap or to work over problems that have been noted in performance. The chorus is seldom called for brushups unless it has an unusually important and difficult role, but all cast members are expected to keep the date open until the brushup calls are announced, which will generally be at the last performance of the first weekend.
a rehearsal on the main stage in which technical issues take precedence over musical and acting ones. Large bodies of action or inaction may be omitted as the rehearsal proceeds among the key cues for lighting and set changes. (There is also a lighting cue-to-cue, in which each lighting change is run, but the chorus is never called for this.)
cyclorama (usually abbreviated `cyc')
a sheet or curtain at the very back of the set designed for certain scenic effects; of special interest to cast members because its presence prevents them from crossing over backstage between stage right and left during performance or dress rehearsal.
designer runthrough
a runthrough with various technical staff present, especially the lighting designer, but perhaps also the set, costume, and makeup designers, crew chief, and other personnel. The principal purpose is for the designers and crew to visualize the flow of action and the stage picture (who is where at what times); from the point of view of the cast it is just another runthrough.
toward the front of the stage and the audience.
dress parade
a review of the costumes as they appear when worn by the cast members. It is held in the rehearsal hall, cast members being called for specific times to be dressed upstairs in the costume shop and then to "parade" before the costume designer and director for notes on alterations etc.
dress rehearsal
a rehearsal in costume and makeup, with full props, scenery, and lighting, ideally without interruptions; the conductor is at the podium and the director and designers in the house. There are two types of opera dress rehearsals: piano and orchestra (q.v.)
green room
the room adjoining the stage (stage left) where cast members patiently and quietly await their calls to the stage, and to which they are often summoned for vocal warm-ups and notes. The green room is also available for visits with audience members after the end of the show. The primary stage door to the theatre is at the back of the green room.
In bocca al lupo!
Italian for "Good luck!", preferred among some opera singers to the American equivalent "Break a leg!" in straight theater; literally, "In the mouth of the wolf". Some singers may also say "Toy, toy, toy" and spit over their shoulder - they mean no harm... If the opera is in French, you might also hear "Merde!" meant for luck.
curtains hung along the side of the stage, parallel to the proscenium, in order to frame the stage picture (sometimes also called blacks). The legs, along with scenery, conceal cast members from view as they prepare to enter or as they exit; because the legs are only curtains, it is important to avoid disturbing them from offstage while awaiting entrances so as not to create a visual distraction.
light lock
a double set of curtains hung to form a box around an outside stage entrance in order to keep daylight from the stage. Because WBO performs matinees and because the presence of a cyc often prevents crossovers within the theater, a light-lock is usually set up inside the door upstage right during matinees; be prepared to slow down entrances and exits through the light lock to two or three people at a time.
initial setting up of the theater for performance following the close of the previous show; mostly it involves hanging the lights and setting up the pit, sometimes setting up of sets and curtain hanging. As WBO is a community theater, cast members are encouraged to help the crew and staff with load-in and strike.
make-up calls
times prior to (or during) a dress rehearsal or performance at which specific cast members are to be in the theater to be made up, costumed and wigged as applicable; the call schedule is individualized and posted, although there is normally one call time for all chorus members.
to sing sotto voce, or in a less taxing octave, at a rehearsal in order to protect the voice. Principals often mark at long staging rehearsals, when they have unusually heavy loads, or have health concerns, but there is seldom reason for choristers to mark. Marking of course makes no sense at rehearsals aimed at musical balance, such as Sitzproben.
first time on stage for the cast: stage safety and hazards, familiarization with set, staging of entrances, exits, and mass moves; no singing.
music rehearsal
a rehearsal under the conductor/music director or chorus master, at which the sole concern is singing, including pronunciation of course; normally singing from the score is expected, except when memorization is the focus.
corrections, changes, suggestions for improvement, or special praise from the directors, both stage and music, following a rehearsal or occasionally a performance. Sometimes a time and place are set aside immediately following the rehearsal for notes, sometimes notes are given prior to the next rehearsal, sometimes the notes are typed up and posted or distributed; depends on the director.
orchestra dress
a dress rehearsal with full orchestra. It is performed as if before an audience, though principal singers may be permitted to mark.
piano dress
a dress rehearsal with only keyboard accompaniment. The chorus is sometimes excused from makeup at the first piano dress. Curtain calls are usually organized at the piano dress rehearsals.
area for the ropes and pulleys used to fly scenery and curtains in and out; it includes a horizontal rail running its entire length a little below waist height. At Lucie Stern Theater the rail is along the stage right wall. Do not lean on it. Be careful not to interfere with crew access to the rail.
rake, raked stage
a stage floor that slopes downwards towards the audience; helpful for choristers blocked upstage to see and be seen, but sometimes tricky for quick movements or dancing. Although the base Lucie Stern stage is flat, like most American theaters, WBO productions frequently build a raked platform to play on as part of the set.
a rehearsal, either on stage or in the rehearsal hall, in which the entire opera or an act is performed, ideally (but seldom) without interruptions, in order to establish the dramatic rhythm.
the first music rehearsal involving both singers and orchestra, usually held in the theatre, where the orchestra plays from the pit and the principals and chorus are seated on stage (Probe is German for rehearsal - a sitting rehearsal).
stage left (right)
towards your left (right) as you face the audience from the stage; stage right is on the audience's left.
staging rehearsal
a rehearsal, beginning with blocking and going through runthroughs, at which the primary emphasis is on the dramatic action and characterization. By the time staging begins singers are expected to be sufficiently secure in their words and music to be off book, although scores are often carried at initial staging rehearsals for making notations.
dismantling of the set, lights, and other equipment, cleaning up the theater, and storage of company property following the final performance, to make way for the next show. See load-in.
an initial attempt at going through an entire opera or more often an act, but with stops and restarts in order to fix or modify the staging; emphasis is on staging rather than music.
supernumerary (`super' for short)
a non-singing, non-speaking cast member; the equivalent of extras in movies, but in productions of this scale supers often play specific characters, such as servants, waiters, innkeepers, executioners, slave dealers, dreamers of the action, etc. (Also known as spear-carriers)
toward the back of the stage, away from the audience; as a verb, to distract attention, generally from someone else who is downstage from you (but it is possible to upstage yourself by doing something distracting from the character you are trying to create).
walking through the blocking, but with little or no singing. Unless there is a cue-to-cue, this would normally be the first time on stage, with the stage introductions and safety notes.
like a Sitzprobe, but the singers stroll about the stage to their approximate blocking. (Wandeln means leisurely walking, as in ``Ihr wandelt droben im Licht auf weichem Boden... Doch uns ist gegeben auf keiner Stätte zu ruhn'')
areas immediately to the left and right of the set, usually partly visible to the audience and partly obscured by the legs. Almost all entrances and exits are from and to the wings.
There is a glossary of general operatic terminology, aimed more at audience than performers, with terms like cabaletta and ritornello and also a few stage terms, created by William Fred Scott, Artistic Director of the Atlanta Opera, that originally (as far as I know) appeared on the that company's Education Page. Although that page seems to have gone away, the same terms (with the same definitions, a few of them wrong) pops up on many other sites, including those of

30 August, 2006

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