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The Start of the Season

By Perryn Leech, HGO Managing Director

It’s not the sound of singers, although that is part of it. It’s not the return of familiar faces, although they are a part of it. It’s not the volume of laughter—although that is certainly a big part of it. All of these things signal the start of the season, and they are bound together with a creative energy that makes the whole building seem to hum. You can feel it as soon as you walk in through the stage door and take the elevator up to the rehearsal rooms. It sounds corny, but there truly is an electricity in the air as soon as you step out at the sixth floor.

The summer at HGO always unfolds at a different pace and with a different feeling than the rest of the year. From the end of May, when most of our artists start to leave for the summer, the building becomes quieter and there is almost a collective sigh of relief after the intensity of the full-force season. Of course, some departments go into overdrive in the summer—particularly Development and Finance as they strive to close out the HGO financial year. But the air certainly feels “different.”

The new season starts with a slow trickle: Studio artists first (the returning showing the new around), and then stage management arrives to start preparing for the season. We move into rehearsals for our now-traditional season opener, the Studio Showcase. Those performances allow us to say “welcome back” to our patrons and supporters, and introduce them to the young artists that will be so integral to the HGO season.

Then the biggest influx of people arrives in a very quick succession: the chorus learning their music and starting rehearsals, the principals joining us from all over the globe. The final piece of the large jigsaw puzzle is, of course, the orchestra, and once they are here and working with the maestro, the creative temperature really heats up. Then suddenly, almost impossibly quickly, we are onstage, getting everything lit, blocked, polished, and painted, and getting everyone fitted for costumes. Then it’s opening night, and we are off and running.

In those eight weeks, HGO swells from 110 full time staff to more than 500 for the opening two shows, and we pretty much retain that number until May. The ramp-up at the start of the season always seems to be impossibly fast and exciting as we all get together for one cause: producing world-class opera. But we know that, just as quickly, the end of the season will soon be with us, and then we can look forward to the whole cycle starting again.