One of the main objectives of this blog is to let you see behind the scenes at our company. A common misconception is that opera is snobby -- and by extension, that those of us who love opera are stuck up! I always laugh when this comes up, because the people I work with are some of the wackiest, funniest, and most wonderful people around. We have a pretty great work environment, and occasionally we even throw off-the-wall celebrations, like our Royal Wedding High Tea:
Anyway, to introduce you to these wonderful people, I'd like to run a monthly Meet the Staff post, featuring different members of our company. This month (in case you haven't already learned enough about me), I'll be the guinea pig. Have something you'd like to know about us? Leave it in the comments!
Music Librarian & Orchestra Administrator
Sexy one-line summary of what you do at the opera:
All the sheet music that anyone uses at the opera comes through me! Well, not actually THROUGH me. That would be messy.
No, really: what is it you do?
See this post. (link: http://www.portlandopera.org/blog/jess-crawford/2011/06/27/introducing-p...)
How long have you worked at the opera?
Since October 3, 2005. Six seasons! Holy cow.
Were you involved with music before working with the opera? Are you a life-long opera fan, or new to the art?
I've been involved with music since I was a young child. I began playing piano at the age of seven, took up the clarinet at nine, and played in bands and orchestras throughout middle and high school. (In addition to clarinet, I experimented briefly with tenor saxophone and flute). I went on to study music in both undergraduate and graduate school, and have both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree.
As for opera? I had very little interest in it before I began here. I had only seen one opera in my life: Carmen, on a french class field trip in the ninth grade. I don't remember a thing about the performance, except that I nearly missed the return bus at the end of the night! After college I initially set out to work in a symphony library, but when this job came up it was a perfect match for my experience, and I was longing to be in Portland. I've loved working in opera ever since I arrived. Every production has a million different details, and the job is never the same twice. I love the costumes, and the scenery, and all the tiny funny little things that make a show so special. Although I don't fall in love with every opera we produce, I enjoy all of them.
Do you have a favorite opera?
I LOVE Nixon in China (Portland Opera - 2006), and have listened to it probably hundreds of times. I tend to be a fan of modern, English language opera, which apparently puts me in a minority! I was truly enamoured with 2009's Orphee, and am a sucker for any Benjamin Britten opera.
Are you from Portland originally?
No. I grew up in Maryland, and went to college in Syracuse, NY. And I don't miss the snow one bit.
What do you do in your spare time?
What spare time? JUST KIDDING. I own a 9-year-old horse named Cookie; I board her down in Oregon City. I ride her (and do barn chores) about four days a week. I also love to garden, and have a community garden plot that I tend to most of the year. Otherwise, I like to go on bike rides around town with my boyfriend, visit many of our city's wonderful parks, and have recently developed a serious fondness for Korean TV. No joke.
What's the craziest/funniest thing that's ever happened to you in your position?
HARD TO SAY. There was the time when we realized -- at our first orchestra rehearsal -- that a bunch of measures of an offstage band part in Rigoletto were missing from all the orchestra parts, and I spent a weekend reconstructing them, while frantically teaching myself our brand-new music notation software as I went. I drank nine cups of coffee in 24 hours.
There was the time when one of our clarinetists arrived late to a performance and I was mere moments away from having to sub in myself -- my first time playing in a year -- because the conductor refused to start without having the second clarinet part covered. It would have been my Portland Opera Orchestra debut!
There was the time when I nearly had to play a tree onstage at the very last minute because one of our supernumeraries was feeling sick. A tree. It would have been awesome but fortunately she perked up and went on.
There was the time I got to shake Philip Glass's hand. Philip Glass!!
What's the best part about the job?
Probably just getting to be in rehearsals. It's great fun watching the singers put the show together from behind the scenes. There are usually lots of inside jokes and laughter in rehearsal; the audience rarely gets to see that, although it does come out as rapport between the actors onstage. And I love when we've first brought a production to the theater for rehearsals. I love being able to roam through the mostly empty house, listening to the orchestra from various seats; I love hearing the way singers vary their performances from night to night. Those tech nights can sometimes, if the production is running smoothly, feel very cozy. Everyone backstage is focused on doing their job, and we are just all there in the theater, late at night, trying to get this show right. There is no feeling like it.
What's the hardest part of the job?
The tedium. The first ten hours of marking orchestra parts is nice; you get to listen to the radio and work undisturbed on a task that requires a lot of attention to detail but not a lot of mental energy (usually). But the other 50-90 hours of doing it start to get very, very boring. And your hand starts to hurt from writing so much.
If you could travel back in time to any performance in history, which would it be?
The premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. The audience was so incensed, they STORMED THE STAGE. Imagine if we were that passionate about new classical music!
If you could have any mythological creature as a pet, what would you adopt?
Gaudior, from Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle In Time" series. Gaudior is a unicorn, but he also has wings like a Pegasus, and a beautiful, multi-phonic singing voice. And he flies through the stars. And he's NICE.