Opera Behind-the-Scenes: Experiencing a Sitzprobe

Little Women opens Saturday, March 11, which means this week is tech week! As we prepare for opening night, we invited our partner Phil Gilchrist, executive director of the Anton Art Center, to our recent sitzprobe to experience first-hand the rehearsal where singers and orchestra members perform together for the first time.

Phil shares his experience below!

Experiencing a Sitzprobe

Phil GilchristIt seems there is often only one way to experience an opera: as an audience member during a performance. Through a partnership between Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT) and the Anton Art Center, I was recently afforded a couple more unique ways to see how a production comes together – in this case, it was watching the Little Women opera composed by Mark Adamo featuring MOT’s resident Studio Artists.

Back in February, MOT brought this year’s Studio Artists to the Anton Art Center for a preview of Little Women, engaging an intimate audience in a somewhat unusual setting. Within an arm’s reach of audience members, artists performed parts of Louisa May Alcott’s classic story, showcasing their amazing vocal talents alongside a gifted piano accompanist in an unusual setting: our galleries. This was a new experience for our patrons, who may never before have seen an opera live, let alone up close and personal. Afterwards, I was extended an invitation to attend Little Women’s sitzprobe (a German word used to describe a seated rehearsal – in this case, the first time the entire cast and full orchestra would rehearse together). After having seen and heard the artists’ solos and duets with piano accompaniment, I was looking forward to the full effect of hearing them rehearse with the orchestra, who up to this point had been rehearsing (mostly) as a separate ensemble. I was greeted by the production manager as I entered through the stage door, who took a few minutes to explain to me what was going to happen. As the first mixed rehearsal, there would be some back and forth between the vocalists and the orchestra as they worked to polish their performance.

As the artists began to assemble in a seated row across the front of the stage, members of the orchestra were warming up, and I could hear the sawing of wood in the background as the stage crew worked on pieces of the set. Artists wore street clothes – the dress rehearsals are to be held later in the week. The atmosphere was relaxed, vocalists joking together between songs and, if they were not needed to rehearse a particular scene, they would even travel out into the house to see and hear things from my own vantage point.

Creativity is a multi-faceted process, and I enjoyed seeing how different pieces of this production came together. Artists, orchestra, and staff put in countless hours to prepare, and typically all the audience sees or knows is the finished performance. I’m glad that I was given the opportunity to see so much more!

Phil Gilchrist, Executive Director, Anton Art Center

The Anton Art Center, Macomb County’s leading visual arts organization, offers fine arts experiences throughout the year including art exhibitions by local, regional, and national artists, adult and youth classes in clay, drawing, and painting, and many other special events.