Nov 25, 2015

Behind the scenes of the Hungarian State Opera

Hungarian State Opera

Rehearsals at the Opera and Hungarian National Balett, backstage work and the daily life at the workshops.

Do you know what SLCM is? Furthermore, what does it stand for on the rehearsal call sheet? First, let us explain how the rehearsal call sheet works. For years it has been put online for the artists to get informed about when and where to appear for their rehearsals. The abbreviation marks the type of rehearsal. SLCM stands for Set, Light, Costume and Mask, which indicates that the production is close to completion. This also means that everyone behind the scenes works all out.

The first image TV commercial in the history of the 128 year old Hungarian State Opera. Grand premiere was on 9 April 2013.

Lighting at the Opera House requires an enormous number of devices. A few figures for example: depending on the productions, between 100 and 200 reflectors controlled by 19 people light up the stage, each one working to different capacities (between 1000 and 5000 Watts). Before every premiere, there is a lighting rehearsal overseen by the director. The auditorium at this time is empty, the digital lighting control desk is set up over the rows of seats in the middle. This is where the lights of the stage are set. In many cases, this rehearsal can take all night.

All this is preceded by a stage setting rehearsal when the performing artists are not present, only the set designer, the technical director, the stage manager, and the stagehands. At the Budapest Opera, stagehands carry out setting up and dismantling the scenery every day

Apart from stage rehearsals, there are many other ways artist can prepare. Singers are coached individually by répétiteurs in smaller rehearsal rooms. There are other rehearsal venues, where ensembles prepare for the performances led by the director. Also present are the assistant director, the répétiteur, even the prompter. This is followed by the orchestra rehearsal, which still needs no stage, but it requires utmost precision.

The sets take their final shape in the two-storey studio on the fourth floor of the Opera House. A number of professionals paint the parts that are manufactured in the smithy and the joiner-shop. The painters working here are more than craftspeople. They are all artists graduated from universities, who provide the high standard of every trick of the trade with impeccable style. Beside them, fabric painters and sculptors work here

We have now reached masks. It is also a unique feature to the Hungarian State Opera that it houses an own wigmaker’s shop. The ladies working here use real human hair to create numerous male and female wigs from baroque pieces to styles that represent imaginary worlds. The hairdressers combs and apply the wigs, and they also provide artists with a moustache and a beard. At certain times artists even get a special nose or ears, for example in the case of the fairy tale ballet, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Costumes for the rehearsals are provided by the dressers. All the clothes, made from quality materials at the Opera’s own dressmaker’s shop, are freshly washed and ironed before the performances. The costumes are stored in a special place: on the fourth floor, opposite painter’s studio is the multi-storey costume department, in which the architect Miklós Ybl himself installed 400 wooden cabinets. On the inner side of the doors the abbreviation of the Royal Hungarian Opera can still be seen.

The rehearsals of the corps de ballet are very exciting, too. The stage rehearsals are also preceded by ballet room rehearsals, which consist of several parts in which soloists practice their routines or duets step by step. The Hungarian National Ballet are assisted by 20 ballet masters who coach the dancers. A basic condition of the rehearsals is that a dancer should be adequately fit as well as having their body warmed-up. This is served by the morning routines, which begin every day at 10 sharp and last an hour. Ballet dancers practice all the positions, jetés and pirouettes.

The image film of the Hungarian State Opera for the 2014/15 season. Main role: the Opera house where the world unfolds.

Photo by Pál Csillag
Credits: Story

Photos made by: Pál Csillag, Attila Nagy, Zsófia Pályi, Péter Rákossy
Storyline by: Judit Várkonyi, György Jávorszky
Editor: Balázs Rákóczi

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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