Backstage at San Francisco Opera > March 2013 > Creating New Roles as a Supernumerary
Creating New Roles as a Supernumerary
I began supering in 1985, with a brand new complete Ring cycle. Since then, I’ve done all the classics—Carmen, La Bohème, Rigoletto, etc. etc. —as well as my share of more obscure pieces. However, the one thing I’ve never done is a brand-new, hot-off-the-presses, world-premiere opera—until now!!! [Photo Left: Laurel Winzler in her English maid costume from The Secret Garden.]

Laurel Winzler shows her versatility as a supernumerary in 2012's Attila
and I Capuleti e i Montecchi.

I’m having a ball being one of the five supers who are part of the cast in The Secret Garden. The show has no conventional set: instead of large pieces of scenery, most of the physical spaces in the opera will be created with video projections. This makes rehearsals pretty interesting, because so far we’ve been acting around ropes strung across the stage to indicate the locations of the scrims where the video images will appear. Though the designer gave us a glimpse at the working video, it’s still hard to imagine what each of the scenes will look like when everything is finally in place.  The one thing we do know is that it’s going to be amazing and beautiful!
 Laurel Winzler in her Indian servant costume for The Secret Garden.

I play two different parts during the show: first, I’m an Indian servant who waits on the English ladies and gentlemen, and then I’m an English servant who waits on the English ladies and gentlemen.... in other words, I’m typecast ! This is pretty typical, as supers are often called upon to play the “background” characters like servants, soldiers, nuns and townspeople who help fill out the stage picture. In The Secret Garden, we’re actually quite important even though we play humble characters, because we’re needed to bring props on and off the stage so the action can continue smoothly without scene breaks. We get to have a lot of fun interacting with our young and very talented cast—they have so much energy and enthusiasm, it makes rehearsals fly by!!
 A production photo from the dress rehearsal of The Secret Garden shows soprano Sarah Shafer as Mary Lennox and Laurel Winzler (far Right) as the Indian servant. Photo by Peter DaSilva.

My biggest challenge is going to be a very quick costume change from an Indian servant in a sari to an English housemaid a la Downton Abbey.  The hardest things to get into quickly are shoes, so the Costume Shop took pity on me and gave me the easiest pair they had—whew!  I just have to remember to take my bindi off before coming back on stage in my English maid’s costume—imagine what the Dowager Duchess would say if I forgot :)
Posted: 3/6/2013 12:02:22 PM by Laurel Winzler (Supernumerary, The Secret Garden)
Filed under: 2012-13Season, SecretGarden, supernumerary


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