A Day in the Life of an Opera Singer: Pre-Show Routines

I’ve been terrible at this blogging thing ever since starting the new job last week. Between working all the time and singing the rest of the time, I haven’t even opened my laptop more than two or three times since Friday night.

But it’s Monday afternoon, the boys I nanny for are homework-ing away, and I thought you all might enjoy a little bit of insight into what goes on backstage (or in the case of my current show, under the stage) before a performance. This is a sample timeline for an 8:00 PM curtain (start of show), based on the schedule for .

  • 6:30 PM: Arrive at the theatre and sign in on the sign-in sheet backstage. A very important step to avoid the wrath of the stage manager. Deliver comp tickets to the box office. Wander into dressing room and stand around aimlessly, wondering where to start.
  • 6:40: Take off regular jewelry and put on show earrings. Complain to one of the chorus girls about how terribly my March Madness bracket is doing. Turn on curling irons. Start makeup. For current show, simply touch up street makeup, since it’s a very small house and a very natural look. Add false eyelashes (about which I complain vigorously), blush, and slightly more defined highlights and shadows.
  • 6:55: Escape the dressing room psychosis by going outside and having something to eat.
  • 7:05: Begrudgingly begin curling hair. Try not to get too involved in conversations so as to rest voice, and generally fail at this. Roll eyes at chorus girl who has a crush on the male lead and can’t stop talking about it.
  • 7:30: Vocal warm-ups as a group in the room across the hall. Don’t over-sing.
  • 7:45: Director and stage manager give pep talk and make announcements, including “15 minutes to places,” to which we respond, “Thank you 15.”
  • 7:50: Finish curling hair if not done. Add hair ribbon. Find ways to occupy self that don’t involve too much talking. Munch a little bit more. Avoid getting into complicated costume.
  • 8:00: Wait until stage manager starts her curtain speech, or better yet, until the first song of the show starts, and make the trek outside, up some sketchy stairs, and around the back of the building to use the restroom, since the only one in the whole building is located off the lobby (oversight much?).
  • 8:05: Return to dressing room and take advantage of other girls still being there to help me get dressed. Tights, knee pads, giant petticoat fondly known as Angry Mildred, huge poofy dress that has to go on over my head due to Angry Mildred’s presence and be pinned together in the back. Double check jewelry. Put on lipstick.
  • 8:12: Chorus girls go upstairs for their first entrance. Enjoy several minutes of quiet in dressing room.
  • 8:17: Girls’ chorus song starts. Scoop dress and petticoat off the floor as much as possible, awkwardly grab character shoes and water bottle. Make the trek outside and up the sketchy stairs again, but this time to the work area outside the stage door.
  • 8:18: Put on character shoes just outside stage door. Pick up parasol and enter stage door quietly, not letting in any light from outside work area.
  • 8:19: Tiptoe through pass-through at the back of the stage. Take a few moments to self while girls frolic. Hide water bottle under set stairs for when I get to exit briefly.
  • 8:21: Tenor is singing a very pretty aria. Try not to get too distracted. When he gets to second verse, climb back of set stairs. Try not to make contact with cello or bass player, so as not to hit them or their instruments or get giant dress stuck on them. Quietly open parasol.
  • 8:22: Take deep breath, smile adorably, and make dazzling first entrance! And don’t get the giant dress stuck on the plywood mountain.

The life of a singer is truly a magical one… but only when you’re actually being a singer.. Is it Friday night yet?

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