Early in the morning the stage technicians prepare the set for the day’s rehearsal. When the rehearsal is over everything is taken down again and the set for the evening performance takes its place.
Scenographer Ylva Thorén sees stagecraft as an important part of her work. “The décor must function both visually and practically. It needs to look good at the same time at it must be easy to pull down and build up again. Many people think that set design is just about making beautiful paintings. It's not like that. It has a lot to do with function."
All décor must be painted in neutral light, as close to daylight as possible. On stage, a lot is changed using the actual lighting. "Each production has its own team of lighting technicians,” says the head of lighting, Pererik Dalberg. "Every single detail in the work is carefully documented. The light must be exactly the same even if the production is performed 60 times."
That’s what happens in the middle of a performance, when all the lights are put out and then turned on again a few seconds later to reveal an entirely new stage. At such moments it is not uncommon for a murmur to fill the auditorium. What was it that actually happened?
“The secret is in the four vertically adjustable platforms that make up the stage, as well as the beams suspended from the ceiling,” Fredrik Blidner, the systems engineer, tells us. “Hydraulic winches move, lift and lower things onto the stage without a sound. The technique seems like pure magic."
In each performance the technical side of the set change must be synchronised with the music. This is the task of the stage manager. The stage manager is like a technical conductor who gives the start signal for stage, light and sound changes.
A change is as good as a holiday.
Another thing that the audience usually finds fascinating is the quick change of clothes. Stage costumes are often quite complicated, so the stage artists often need help to get changed. Six dressers are employed fulltime at GöteborgsOperan, as well as a number of freelancers. The cast begins rehearsing with costumes four weeks before the premiere. Before then the dressers have had several meetings with the assistant producer, the tailor's cutter and the costume maker so as to be able to organise quick changes.
“It's no use being shy backstage. Of course we do have dressing-rooms nearby, but there is often not enough time. Many costume changes have to be done in less than a minute,” says Camilla Börjesson, head of the dressers. ”But sometimes it all happens a bit too quickly,” she continues. "The time when a soloist came out on stage with a hanger in her wig is still something that is often talked about!"
The clothes are carefully marked with the names of the artists and the performance.”My profession is really more about logistics than clothes,” says Camilla Börjesson. ”In Goya many parts have five changes of clothes per performance. In such cases meticulous planning is required."
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