Met Opera Tough Job

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lennygoran
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Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
Location: new york city

Met Opera Tough Job

Post by lennygoran » Tue May 09, 2017 7:33 pm

We've been discussing in another thread how tough the Met Orchestra players have it-how about this guy! Regards, Len :D


One of the Toughest (Silent) Jobs at the Met Opera

By MICHAEL COOPER MAY 9, 2017


From his aerie in the gilded ceiling of the vast Metropolitan Opera House, just behind the Sputnik chandeliers and some six stories above the stage, Tim Guscott fixed Anna Netrebko in his sights. Then he cast a beam of light so narrow and precisely aimed that it illuminated only that Russian diva’s head as she sang Puccini far below.

“It’s really hard to follow something no bigger than a basketball that’s 135 feet away,” he said as he kept a slightly pink light tightly on Ms. Netrebko’s face as she moved, subtly offsetting the larger, blue-tinted spotlight a colleague had cast on her whole body.


Mr. Guscott, 51, has one of the trickiest silent jobs at the opera house: He is the Met’s head follow-spot operator. As Ms. Netrebko and several dozen of the world’s greatest opera stars shared the spotlight at the Met’s gala concert on Sunday evening — the lineup included Plácido Domingo, Renée Fleming, Joyce DiDonato and many more — it was the responsibility of Mr. Guscott and his colleagues to make sure that the house’s spotlights found them all.

Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, calls it “the toughest follow-spot job in the business.” The task is almost imperceptible when done correctly, but it can stand out like a sour note when it is off. The job requires a combination of practice and intuition — and the ability to read body language and anticipate a singer’s every move.

“On a really good night — which happens more often than not, but not as much as I would like,” Mr. Guscott said, “I feel like there’s a thin silver thread between me and the performer, because I don’t have to think any more about what they’re going to do.”

Mr. Guscott, a soft-spoken, trim man who runs and rides motorcycles in his limited time off, works with his colleagues in the attic of the opera house. It is a dark space called the Domes, which is intersected by metal catwalks between the domed, scalloped ceiling of the auditorium and the Met’s roof, which bears the contours of its famous arches. The entrance to his lighting booth is just past one of the winches that raise the celebrated chandeliers.

“Good evening, spots,” the voice of Margo Maier-Moul, a stage manager, said over a speaker as the orchestra tuned. “Domes, are you guys up there? Check, check?”

Then they were off.

The job has become more demanding as a more static style of singing opera — now dismissed as “park and bark” — has given way to the kinetic, athletic stage presence many singers strive for. Several stars at the gala gave their follow-spot operators (the biggest scene required six) workouts: the tenor Vittorio Grigolo, impulsively running backward as he sang an aria from Puccini’s “Tosca”; the soprano Pretty Yende, in constant motion in a scene from Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale”; Ms. Netrebko, striding up and down stairs in Verdi’s “Macbeth.”
The technology has changed as well. The lighting booth still has ceiling vents that used to be attached to the carbon arc spotlights that were in use when Mr. Guscott came to the Met in 1995. “The burning of the carbon rods created carbon monoxide, and the operators would have been asphyxiated otherwise,” he said of the vents. Now they use 3,000-watt xenon lights, and the primitive sights follow-spot operators once jury-rigged out of bent coat hangers have been replaced by Telrad sights, originally designed to help stargazers aim their telescopes.

The Domes proved an ideal place to watch the five-hour gala in all respects but one: The glass that the Met installed to muffle the noise of the fans that cool the lights meant that almost none of the music could be heard. (Just a few singers broke through the glass, including Javier Camarena’s high Cs in Donizetti’s “La Fille du Régiment,” and Ms. Netrebko’s mighty climax in an aria from Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.”)

“My predecessor complained that he had worked up here for 35 years and he never heard Pavarotti sing,” Mr. Guscott said, adding with a smile that he occasionally asks to work out of the one glassless booth. “If there’s a piece I particularly like, one of the few benefits of being in charge is that I get to assign lamps. So if I want to hear Act III of ‘Carmen,’ I just put myself back there.”


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/arts ... ctionfront

barney
Posts: 2544
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:12 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Met Opera Tough Job

Post by barney » Thu May 11, 2017 10:47 am

Fascinating. Thanks, Lenny.
Park and bark - I love it.

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