During an opera performance, the orchestra is in the pit, an area under the stage and below the singers.
Music for Opéra de Québec is provided by a sixty-strong contingent from Orchestre symphonique de Québec. The orchestra’s role is critical as it sets the pace for the singers and the chorus and provides musical support.
The chorus can play the role of all sorts of characters but usually represents the people, villagers, and/or soldiers in a story. The chorus sings in unison as a single character and summarizes or comments on the ongoing intrigue. The Opéra de Québec Chorus is made up of professional singers. Depending on the opera, the size of the chorus can range from 12 to 60 members.
This is where the scenery and lighting are controlled and where all the instructions for entering and exiting the stage and on-stage movement are given. The head stage manager gives the signal for the performance to start, the curtain to go up, and for changes in lighting and scenery. Assistant stage managers stay in the wings and give cues to soloists or for any other element of the performance. Everything is timed with a stopwatch based on the score for the opera.
Months in advance, the artistic director and general manager oversee the hiring of the director, soloists, and chorus members and the rental or production of scenery and costumes.
Opéra de Québec employs as many as 250 people per show. This includes singers, instrumentalists, chorus members, rehearsal pianists, stage managers, costume designers, prop managers, makeup designers, hair stylists, dancers, extras, stagehands, lighting operators, sound operators, projectionists, dressers, and office staff.
Rehearsals start three weeks before the first show. The soloists and the chorus rehearse separately from the orchestra until the Italian run, which is a rehearsal without costumes but when the singers and orchestra run through the entire production for the first time. Next comes a pre-dress rehearsal, then the dress rehearsal, and finally, opening night!
Soloists might arrive up to four hours before the start of each performance for makeup and costumes. Chorus members need to arrive at Grand Théâtre about one hour in advance for makeup and costumes and to warm up their voices.
Instrumentalists need to arrive 30 minutes before curtain time.