Friday, October 19, 2012

Meet our Supernumeraries:
ROSEMARY LEONG-MILLER

Part of what makes Seattle Opera's production of Fidelio so exciting is the participation of dozens of supernumeraries (non-singing volunteers) from our community. They storm onstage in full force at the end of the opera, when the townspeople break down the prison walls and search for their loved ones. To cast this group, Stage Director Chris Alexander held auditions earlier this fall (watch the video HERE). Today we hear from Rosemary Leong-Miller (right, with red scarf, photo by Elise Bakketun), one of the supers who was selected through that process. Rosemary is coming full circle with this production; Fidelio was her first opera, back in 1980, and Chris Alexander is one of her favorite directors. She has been a volunteer, a longtime audience member, a donor, and a staunch friend of Seattle Opera for many years.

What is your role as a supernumerary in Fidelio?
Roles were determined by gender. Men can be camp guards, prisoners, members of the press, or a townsperson, and women are members of the press or part of the town. I am a townsperson, although I think it would have been fun to be cast as a detainee, kind of like Aung San Suu Kyi.

What do you like about being a super?
I like the process of seeing the opera coming together. I've had the opportunity to watch a piano technical rehearsal, followed by a dress rehearsal, and then the performance. It's interesting to see changes between the performances. By being a super, one experiences the entire development of a scene. Of course, it's REALLY wonderful listening to this great cast and chorus perform every night in rehearsals and on stage.

Have you been a super before?
No, this is my first time. And, I must add, it's a real honor.

What did you have to do in tryouts?
Our stage director, Chris Alexander, explained the scene to those of us who came to Seattle Opera’s rehearsal studio for the auditions. While a piano accompanied us, we broke through the prison walls and ran into the courtyard to look for our loved ones who had been imprisoned. Chris randomly assigned us to either find or not find our family member. I am one who doesn't find them in the courtyard, so I search the cells, and come out a little teary-eyed.

What do you like about Beethoven’s music?
Beethoven's music is powerful, and passionate. It moves you! Especially if you contrast it with the music that came earlier, of Mozart, or Haydn. The earlier music from the Classical Era was beautiful or interesting, but as you know, Beethoven marks the transition from the Classical to Romantic Era in music. You feel his music. He can make you want to cheer, like we do when we run into the courtyard.

What do you like about opera in general?
I love opera because opera has it all, not just music, not just voice. Great opera demands a great conductor with a good orchestra and singers, but opera in recital doesn't have the same impact as a wonderfully staged production with sets and costumes. If you add singers who can act, it's a live performance that just can't be beat.

Do you remember the first production you saw at Seattle Opera?
Of course! It was Fidelio in 1980. It's a great first opera.

Do you have a favorite production?
There are two Chris Alexander productions, Ariadne auf Naxos and Tales of Hoffman, that I loved and want to see again. And even though it isn’t my favorite opera, I'd have to add this summer's Turandot. Of course, our "Green Ring," and I'll never forget the Rusalka with Ben Heppner and RenĂ©e Fleming.

-- Interview by Jessica Murphy


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