So you and your colleagues have a brilliant idea: you're going to put on an opera. You're going to go out there and create your own opportunities. You're going to build your resume and finally do that opera you've always wanted to do the way you've always wanted to do it. Good for you! Now what? Sure, you know you need a cast, a director, and a crew, but what other roles need to be filled? Since you'll likely have a small team, you probably won't have enough people for each individual role. In fact, it's entirely possible that you will need to find a way to encompass all of these roles yourself. These are the behind-the-scenes personalities that have to be adopted to make this production happen:
The Ringleader is the mastermind behind the whole production. They may be the director, the lead performer, or a really enthusiastic chorus member. The most important thing is that they have the vision for the show and want to see it achieved. They keep the passion for the production ignited even when things get difficult. Without a Ringleader to champion your production, things can quickly fall apart. If you are the person who wants this opera to happen, you have already donned the majestic top hat of Ringleader.
This person is grounded in reality. They see the difficulties that can arise in a production and keep a checklist of challenges that will come up along the way. Sometimes the Ringleader doesn't want to face these harsh realities, but you'd rather have a Pragmatist than ignore the issues that come with putting on a show. This person keeps unbridled enthusiasm in check and prevents you from blowing your budget on extravagant costume rentals or underestimating the amount of rehearsal you need.
Who's directing? Who's music directing? Who else is in the cast? Who's playing in the orchestra? How do we find a lighting designer? Who's taking tickets? The Recruiter is often calling in favors to fill these jobs, so the Recruiter needs to make sure the production is worth putting their reputation on the line. They need to have excellent connections and the ability to talk people into doing a lot of work for most likely not a ton of money. Speaking of which...
In a perfect world this position would just be “producer,” but if you aren’t working with an established company, chances are slim that anyone has that direct title. The Money may not have money, but they can run a really solid Kickstarter campaign and have a knack for fostering relationships with donors. They are on the hustle to make sure that production is funded. They also make sure all performers and crew are compensated after the curtain closes. Top notch communication skills are paramount for digging up the funding necessary to make the production happen.
Even if you’re doing this production with friends you trust, you need to have contracts. The Negotiator will make sure everyone understand the terms of the production and that there are no misunderstandings along the way. They ensure everything is protected and that all essential agreements are signed between all performers, venues, and other professionals. The Negotiator reads the fine print and doesn't make assumptions about anything. They hold even the simplest production to the highest possible standards.
The Coordinator is the master of the Google calendar and the calendar invite. They confirm that the performance venue is booked and that the rehearsal space is secured. They ensure that all communications are running smoothly. They have times and dates for all performances and rehearsals organized, and they make sure every member of the cast and crew know where they are supposed to be. Spreadsheets, email lists, and Google Docs are their best friends. If anyone in the cast has a question about where they are supposed to be and when, The Coordinator has the answer.
Is your opera in English? Do you need supertitles? Who’s writing them? What about the synopsis in the program? Did you forget you need to make a program? There's a surprising amount of writing that goes into putting on an opera. The Writer either edits existing supertitles to fit your productions or makes their own from scratch. They draft the synopsis, edit the bios, spellcheck the director's note, and make sure that the program is laid out properly.
This is the person who gets the word out to the people about your show. They can write press releases, manage your social media presence, and promote your show to local publications. Especially if your show is more than one performance, good promotion is essential to making sure more than just your close friends fill the theater. When you put so much work into a show, you want to fill the house every night. Picture Don Draper with a Mailchimp account and send the perfect advertisements out to your contacts.
In every production, surprise issues always crop up, and there is always some little thing that needs to be done at the last minute. Get someone who can take care of it quickly. Imagine Olivia Pope with a vocal score; she has it handled. Have someone in your corner who can roll with the punches and find creative solutions to make sure the show goes on. Better yet, be this person. Be ready to think on your feet and handle any problem that comes up. It is nearly impossible to plan for every problem that you could face, but if you are adaptable and have an open mind, you'll be able to handle almost anything.
In a perfect world, you would have one person handling every aspect of producing your opera. That isn't likely to happen in this show. You may switching between being the Ringleader, Promoter, and Negotiator within a span of five minutes. The good news is that if you succeed in producing this opera, you will be incredibly proud of yourself. Despite the stress the production may cause, it will be worth it to have a performance you can truly say you built from the ground up. Keep a level head and look forward to how exciting the show will be.