Sunday, July 30, 2006
Preparing the Covers
Michael Shell: Assistant Director
In a festival setting like Glimmerglass, covers are very important. All of these shows run for a little over a month, so the likelihood of one of the principals becoming ill is higher than at a standard opera house. They have to know their music, where they’re going onstage, and what else is happening around them. Although they haven’t had as much rehearsal time with the roles as the principals have, they need to develop a close connection with the character that they are portraying as well.
As assistant director, it is my job to teach the covers their blocking and help them find their characters. This has been a challenge with The Greater Good because not only is the music difficult, but the blocking came out of such individual choices that David Schweitzer (director) guided the singers to make during the rehearsal process. It isn’t simply, “walk over here and stand there for five bars and then cross to stage left.” The moves are always very character driven, so it is challenging to teach that in the very few rehearsals that I have.
We have a total of seven rehearsals with the covers, the second coach/accompanist, and the assistant conductor. This culminates in what is called a cover run. This is a run with an invited audience of other members of the company so that the covers get a chance to see how it feels to run through the show from beginning to end. This is done at the rehearsal space with most of the props, rehearsal costumes, and some mock-ups of set pieces. The carriage, which is so central to the show, will not be used in the cover run because it has already been moved over to the theater for performances. Still, it is the only opportunity that the covers get to dig their teeth into the show. If they end up going on for one of the principals they will have never been on stage in costume before. It is a very challenging thing to do, especially with a piece as difficult as this one, so it is important that I prepare them as best I can.
Photos (from left to right):
1. Michael Shell (assistant director) watches as the covers for The Greater Good run a scene during rehearsal.
2. Michael Shell works with Holli Harrison (cover for Boule de Suif) and Elise Quagliata (cover for Mme. Carré-Lamadon) during a cover rehearsal.