Grand Opera Beyond the Curtain Line, 1915

The following originally appeared in a 1915 issue of Theatre Magazine:

Grand Opera Beyond the Curtain Line

by Mercy Gorham

“Every night is a first night with us,” observed Edward Siedle, Technical Director of the Metropolitan Opera House, as he watched a scene “break” in “Koenigskinder.” He stood talking of that mysterious realm beyond the footlights, always an enigma to the average operagoer, and he talked entertainingly, too, as a man is apt to do when his work is his hobby…

“I suppose the ‘property’ department is most popular with the laity, doubtless because it is better understood than the rest. It is a very important division, too, as will be seen when one takes into consideration the enormous number of properties used in all the operas and the vital importance of each in its turn. Take the matter of floor coverings alone, such as carpets, medallions and stage cloths, for in every scene the stage is covered with a cloth in keeping with the ensemble, and one can compass in a small measure the enormous amount of material there is to be cared for.

“Each scene calls for its own equipment. If it is a garden then there is earth and grass, benches and marbles to be provided. A street scene calls for paved ways; palaces for tesselated floors; the small parlor for its hard-wood floors and modern rugs and carpets; doors and windows for curtains and draperies; tables for pedestals and bric-a-brac; gardens for trees and flowers and rock scenes for their practical rocks.

“As the scenes of operas are laid in every part of the world, there must be a great variety of settings provided. Not a few illustrate mythological subjects, while others are Oriental in spirit. The properties of each require not only care in the handling, but a lot of research, trouble and expense in the making. These have all to be listed in their plots, showing precisely where they are placed when on the stage. Those not on the stage, but which are brought on during the performance, must also be carefully marked on the plot.”

Gorham, Mercy. “Grand Opera Beyond the Curtain Line.” The Theatre Magazine Jan. 1915: 21. Google Books. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.