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PDX OPERAbeat | A Company Blog is the blog for all things Portland Opera, featuring a variety of guest contributors who will provide insider's tidbits on all we do to celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera.

Opera Summer

And: we're back!

It's the period I lovingly refer to as "opera summer." Those fleeting few months when there's a lull between shows, when one season has ended and another has yet to begin. Although of course we all love producing operas, the break is, as breaks usually are, delicious.

What happens during opera summer?

We put everything away. The pieces of our final production -- sets, costumes, props -- are sent home. Candide, made mostly of projections, gets its relevant bits and pieces stored in our warehouse. Costumes which were rented are returned to the rental house. The orchestra music is given a once-over (for paperclips, tape, messily-drawn cuts, etc) and, in the case of Candide, returned to the publisher.

We do a final reckoning. In the sometimes frantic hustle of the season, things get left behind, messy, upended. In my case, I put away scores from the whole season. The filing in my office took me a whole day. I still had an entire pile of music from the gala -- LAST SEASON'S GALA -- sitting on my desk. Good grief.

We catch up on things we never get time for mid-season. I inventoried the whole library! I spent one luxurious week wearing scrubby clothes (because of the dust things acquire from long periods on shelves) and counted every single slip of music we own. (Well, almost every one. I know better than to think I got them all.) I unearthed things I had no idea were kicking around. There just isn't time for all those big projects when you're trying to juggle the immediate issues of the production at hand.

We begin working on next season, because the Boy Scouts say it best: Be prepared. In my case, about a third of the gala music is already booked ("booked" - music librarian term for "excerpted, copied, and sorted into individual musicians' folders"). The rest has been ordered or rented, and will arrive during the summer. No rest for the weary, people.

We celebrate! At the end of June, in lieu of our standard monthly full company lunch, Portland Opera staff took a two-hour lunch cruise on the Crystal Dolphin, one of the Portland Spirit's smaller vessels. We lucked out with the weather -- the trip fell on the one sunny day in one of our seemingly never-ending rainy patches.


we made the bridge go up
Staff guiltily admire the Hawthorne Bridge, going up for our ship

Production Stage Manager Jennifer Hammontree and Education & Outreach Manager Alexis Hamilton chat on the upper deck.

hey, that's us!

Hey, that's us!

We go away. Many of the staff take vacation -- for some, the off-season is the only opportunity for long enough downtime to head out of town. Others of us go off-contract for the summer: people like stage managers, our principal accompanist, the costume shop staff, and me, your humble librarian. These periods off work are standard in the business -- the symphony librarians, for example, went off contract a week before I did. Those of us off work for the summer occupy ourselves in various ways. Many of us take summer jobs at music festivals or event companies. (Rob Ainsley, for example, does excellent work at Opera Theater of St. Louis). Others just enjoy the time off. As for me? In my six weeks away, I do a great deal of writing for the company, including this blog. Otherwise, I spend a lot of time riding my horse.

We keep working! Those of us who remain in the office still have plenty to do. After all, there's no such thing as "Broadway summer" -- those of us who work both opera and Broadway are still cranking along. Development staff continue to apply for grants and otherwise bring in money for the company. Many of the production staff remain to plan for next season. Remember: no rest for the weary, people.

We look forward to next season. Next season! I'll have more to say about next season later this summer. Happy opera summer, everyone! Hopefully we'll get some sun ... sometime?