Upstage / Downstage: Get To Know The Singers!

Lyric Opera of Chicago's Production of Puccini's "Turandot". Photo Credit - Todd Rosenberg
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Production of Puccini’s “Turandot”. Photo Credit – Todd Rosenberg

Our last two newsletters, also our first two newsletters, featured some information about Production Staff and some part time performers; dancers and actors. This month we are getting to know our full time and part time members who make up the majority of LOSA, the singers.

The Principal Artists are the ones who sing the solo roles in the operas including Lyric favorites Ana Maria Martinez and Matthew Polenzani, to name two. Some of the solo operatic roles may also be performed by members of the Ryan Opera Center, Lyric’s Young Artist program.

There is nothing like the raw power of the opera singer’s voice, and multiply that sound by 48 or more, and you have the opera chorus. There are 48 full time Regular Choristers employed at Lyric Opera of Chicago. If an opera requires a chorus, some or all 48 will be performing. Some operas require less than 48, and in those instances, the Chorus Master chooses from those 48 the voices that he needs for that production.

The Regular Chorus can work 7 days a week and up to 10 days in a row without a day off. The average work week is 25 hours, however, the Choristers must be available 7 days a week for approximately 80 hours a week, in case the schedule needs to be changed. They are given a few days notice if that happens.

When an opera requires more than 48 singers, extra forces are hired in the form of 12 Core Supplementary Choristers, the first 12 added, and Supplementary Choristers if more than 60 total are needed.
What exactly do Choristers do? Rehearse and memorize the music for the opera which may be sung in English, Italian, French, German, Russian, Czech and others including Sanskrit!

Choristers also go to Wardrobe and wig fittings. In any given production, a Chorister may wear 3 or 4 different wigs, facial hair and/ or costumes.

Staging rehearsal are required so the Choristers know where they should be on stage and what they should be doing to interact with others and contribute to the drama and the telling of the story.

Choristers may be required to dance and/ or fight, and have to move in specific ways, depending on their character, costume and director’s wishes.

Who are the Chorus? Peasants, townspeople, aristocrats, slaves, party-goers, prostitutes, prisoners, servants, wait staff, fairies and soldiers, just to name a few!

Opera singers are highly skilled, specialized people who sing in many different languages, act and dance, and who project their voices to thousands of people, over an orchestra with no microphones!