When a colleague in production called to ask if I would be willing to be a supernumerary in Carmen
my first thought other than – why not!? – was “I have to call Bill.” Bill Klaproth and his wife Roberta are founding members of the Opera’s Medallion Society, longtime subscribers, and two of the most lovely people I have had the privilege of getting to know. When Bill retired in 1990, he decided it was the perfect time to become more involved with the Company, and he applied become a Supernumerary. He’s never looked back. Since 1990, he has appeared in dozens of operas, and is currently supering in his fourth Turandot
as one of the soldiers.
[Above: Bill Klaproth as The Cardinal in 2007's Tosca
Over coffee before the final dress rehearsal of Don Giovanni,
Bill spoke fondly of his first role in 1990’s production of Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina,
as well as many of his other favorite ‘super’ moments over the years.
Most Interesting Director: John Copley in 2008’s Idomeneo as he required each super to audition by dancing a polonaise from Eugene Onegin.
Most Memorable Artist: Sam Ramey in 1991’s Attila. [Above: Bill Klaproth backstage with Samuel Ramey in 1991.]
Favorite Opera Role
: Die Fledermaus
in both the 1996 Season and the 2006 Season where he was Price Orlofsky’s valet. A particular highlight of the 1996 production was being responsible for the Russian Wolfhounds.
Favorite Costume: The Cardinal in 1997’s Tosca - A recreation of the Company’s original production that opened the War Memorial Opera House in 1932.
Oddest Costume: 2008’s production of Die Tote Stadt, where he played a nun in Act I and a priest in Act II.
[Above: Bill Klaproth as Prince Orlofsky’s valet opposite Gerald Thompson in 2006’s Die Fledermaus. Photo by Terrence McCarthy.]
So, after more than 20 years, why does he continue to do it? Bill says it is because what appears on stage is the end product of the entire Company’s efforts. Every single Company member has played a part. And the most rewarding thing as a donor is experiencing the result of his support in these culminating moments.
As we walked to the house for Don Giovanni he shared with me his best words of advice for my own super debut. “Bonita, now remember, there are no small roles, just small actors.” Will I ever live up to Bill’s example? Maybe, maybe not, but this novice super and appropriately cast, novice nun is going to do her very best.
[Right: Bonita Hagbom (right) as a nun in 2011's Carmen. Photo by Cory Weaver.]