This month I performed in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of "Il Travatore" …the last show I will be doing at the Met as a Super. What an opportunity this has been to have had the privilege of standing on that stage. I’ll never forget my very first gig, which was as a voiceless Voice of God in "Moses und Aaron". That’s the photo that made the cover of the 2000 Met Season’s brochure [see Gallery]. I was the first person to walk out on the stage for that opera. There were 6 of us dressed in concert attire and we would be the visuals for the Voice of God whenever God spoke to Moses [the actual singers were in the pit]. As I walked out on that stage for the first time, I remembered thinking, "look up Sue and take this all in…you are standing on the STAGE of the Metropolitan Opera looking OUT at the audience". It was a trip!
Now just to explain, a Super [Supernumerary] is an opera extra. We are non-singing actors, however, in my 2nd gig I got to let out a blood curdling, on pitch scream in "Tristan und Isolde" from a tower 30 feet in the air when I Diva Doubled for the gal playing the part of Brangaene. She was afraid of heights. I call that moment a "life list moment". Just think about it, who, as a singer especially, wouldn’t want to just stand on that stage and let out a note just to see if their voice could sustain in that hall? I got to do it for 6 performances and it’s even on video as it was aired on PBS. I also got to literally cut off the amazing Jane Eaglan in mid aria riff! Ben Hepner, Tristan, kept calling me "the screamer" to which I would of course reply, "you should only know big guy"! ; )
I also got to do the lighting tech for this opera actually playing the part of Isolde. We were in these Mad Max meets Wagner heavy wool caftan type costumes [it was a good look on the boys (yummy - see Gallery) but not on me!] so while it was a long day it was a fun thing to do. In one scene they left me and Richie Guido, [a guy who looks like a thin Dom DeLouise who only has to lift his eyebrow and I fall into a giggling mess] who was playing Tristan, on stage sitting on this enormous chest and he and I are chatting and we look up and realize the entire house is gone on break…did any one tell us? NO! When they all came back Richie goes, "Excuse me, can we pee? Can the adults please pee?" [This is a reference to a line in "A Chorus Line" which was totally lost on these opera types being that half the team was German and didn’t speak English but there I lay on the floor in a giggling mess again!]
The next scene, they throw me into this big yellow box [the tower] with a gorgeous 22 year old, Latino boy and Dieter Dorn, the Director, says, "Put your hand on hees chest and look like you luff him." So I do and, as I’m feeling up this poor child, I’m thinking, "I love my job, I love my job, I love my job"! [AND…I got paid!!!]
The next show was "Norma", again starring the wonderful, funny and nice Jane Eaglan [who incidentally warms up her voice by singing Meat Loaf songs into a hairbrush!]. It was sung amazingly but, in my opinion…SNORE…we were actually calling the production "Snorema" backstage but shhhh, you didn’t hear it from me! I was a Druid Princess in this one [again, photo in the Gallery as proof]. Doing this show with me was the lovely and talented and oh so funny Cabaret Diva Georga Osborne. Georga was actually how I came to even audition for the Met. She dragged me to the "Moses und Aaron" audition with her and we both got cast but she ended up having to perform out of town and couldn’t do the run. It was nice and kind of full circle to get to do a show with her finally.
Which brings me back to "Il Travatore". Originally I was cast in two roles, that of a Court Lady and also as the Diva Double again in a tower, well, the moon. I was sung to by the Travatore. I was dressed in a mirange of a dress which I had to hike it up to my waist to climb up a ladder to sit in the moon with a stage hand who made me giggle constantly thus shaking the moon…it was fun. BUT, third performance I am unceremoniously brought out of the moon during performance and the poor Travatore is singing to no one. After the show, he was like, "Where was a my Leonora en la luna?" It seems that Mr. Volpe was making cuts left and right as the show proceeded so I ended up just being a Court Lady but, let me tell you, these dresses were a show unto themselves.
The original costumes had hoops in them that were no less than 12 feet around. There were 5 of us and we had to be dressed on the side of the stage because they couldn’t fit us in the elevator to get us down on time from our dressing room. They were beautiful though. The detail on each dress was amazing. These went with the vision of the original director, Graham Vick, who set the opera in a kind of "Gone with the Wind" type setting. This last run however, the dresses and the wigs were cut down a bit which was a good thing because now we weren’t knocking over tombstones or Super boys or nuns with our skirts!
On Friday, February 24th - "Il Travatore" was my Met swan song…the reason is that, while this has been the opportunity of a lifetime and a complete joy to do each and every time…I no longer have the time to devote to the rehearsals during the day and time out of my office from my day job because I now need that time to use for my jazz and cabaret shows - so it’s all for a good reason. Since I am not an opera singer, this has just been a really cool and fun thing to do but now I need the time to devote to my singing gigs.
I leave with a heavy heart though but so much gratitude to the Met, to Georga who dragged me up there, to Bob Diamond the man who has booked me for these gigs, to the SUPER Super Ladies and Gents I have had the pleasure of sharing a dressing room and stage with, to the dressers on the 3rd floor, to the stage hands, managers and all the people on the side of the stage for always treating us like professionals and to the costumers for their painstaking love of what they do to make even us extras feel extraordinary on the stage. It’s been quite a ride and I’ll never forget it. As I stood on stage for the last time I again remembered to "look up and take it all in" and I was grateful.