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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.

Gala Recap

Pardon my absence last week. The post-gala landscape around here was pretty hilarious. On Monday, you could have heard a pin drop in the office. We were all here, but we were collectively so exhausted that all we could do was shuffle around the office, pour more coffee, and shuffle back to our desks. A coworker commented, "I haven't been this tired since college."

For all of us in the company, the gala was an exciting but terrifying experiment. Everything was new to us, so there were a ton of details that remained a mystery. Would the street fair be a success? Would people show up? Would everything get done in time? Would the weather hold?! Were two rehearsals, plus a dress rehearsal, enough for the orchestra? Would all the music work out?

An aside: I spent all day Thursday as a giant insane ball of nerves. Thursday night was our first orchestra reading, which is, even in the best of scenarios, completely nerve-wracking. I was so stressed out I almost couldn't see straight! I was terrified that the music would be in the wrong order, or that I'd forgotten something, or that the musicians would forget to show up. I was afraid that there must be at least 50 things I was somehow forgetting. I had no idea what to expect. I had enough anxiety-fueled adrenaline to run a marathon.

Of course, with the exception of about 8 bars of the second trumpet part (and a little flub in the harp book), the parts were fine. We all got through the first reading and lived to tell about it.

On Friday we moved to the theater. Friday night was a long one for the folks on our tech staff, who were up into the wee hours hanging the giant movie screen on the side of the Keller. When I arrived to the theater Saturday at noon, 3rd Street was already closed and the street fair was in the process of being set up. The fountain was off. The sun was shining! It was a beautiful day. Everybody was still awake, working hard, and cheerful.

The dress rehearsal went swimmingly. I kept trying to go down into the pit lounge to talk to orchestra folks, forgetting that they were ON STAGE! And how funny to watch them going on stage. "Where is it?" some of them asked, having never spent any time upstairs. These are people who play opera and ballet; they literally never see the stage! Isn't that crazy, to work all the time at the theater, and never see a stage?! I'm really happy for them that they finally got to be up there.

After the dress rehearsal, some of us kept working as the rest disbanded for a quick bite to eat. We had a few hours in between rehearsal and performance. Outside, the street fair was about to open for business. The Marx Brothers were getting their heads inflated.

The hot dog guys were cooking. The string lights were strung. The stage was set up. Opera Theater Oregon was running one final time through Five Minute Faust.

Gala Recap Blog 1

I went back inside to make myself gala-fied, and to put on The Dress. I'd be working the supertext all night, up in the spot booth where only three stagehands would see me. So The Dress had to make a good long appearance outside beforehand, for maximum effect.

The Dress: vintage 1950s party style. Perhaps a little above my budget. (Budget: $0). Totally, totally worth it.

Gala Recap Blog

You guys, the street fair was awesome. I happened to come out at the same time the Marx heads came out -- you gotta make an entrance, right? -- and I just could not stop grinning. People had already set themselves up in the park, with their picnic dinners in hand. The band was going. Kids were dancing in the street! The crowd was gathering. We did it!! I took a couple of laps around the park, just beaming at the spectators.

I can't actually speak much to the concert, as I was running supertext. I get to listen, but it's through a headset, and I can't watch because I'm busy watching the score. But the crowd was obviously appreciative of the music, and Sam Adams, our very special surprise guest, rang the anvil like a pro. I heard later that outside, the folks watching the simulcast were quiet and respectful, just as if they were inside the theater. When the music was over, I stood at the window of the second balcony and looked out at the crowd, all still gathered in the park. I can't tell you how proud a moment it was, seeing all those people still gazing raptly at the screen.

The gala was a long time coming, and a ton of work for everyone involved. And here we were, with a crowd, and live music, and great food and a great setting and perfect weather. In case I ever forget why I slave over parts and work long hours, this is why. For this magical moment of delight, when everything you've worried about comes together and something magical happens.