By day, most people at San Francisco Opera know me as one of our senior accountants. For six years, I’ve processed the accounts payable invoices for the Company, among many other financial projects. Basically that means I pay the bills.
But by (the occasional) night, I am a supernumerary—a non-singing “extra” on the operatic stage. I’ve been a super on our past productions of Boris Godunov and Le Nozze di Figaro—I’ve even recruited my mother as a super—but I first began doing this back in 2008 for our production of Das Rheingold.
Like most of my other Opera colleagues who have been supers (one of our systems administrators was a hunter in last year’s Die Walküre, and our program book editor was a football player in L’Elisir d’Amore in 2008), I was initially approached by the Production staff because I fit the costume. [Above: The Nibelungen swarm Alberich in 2008's Das Rheingold. Photo by Terrence McCarthy]
I stand 4’11”—not a typical height for the stage—so I asked what the role was. “Oh, you’ll be a Nibelung, which is an enslaved dwarf. In the production most of the Nibelungs will be kids under the age of ten, but we need a few adult supers to help ‘wrangle’ them on stage.” It sounded a bit like herding cats to me, but I was up for a challenge and accepted. And here I am, back again for the full Ring
cycles. [Right: Linda Rodriguez with some of the Nibelungen children at an early Das Rheingold
I’m one of ten adult supers that make sure the approximately 40 children are moving around the stage safely and staying focused. Safety is our biggest concern. We want to make sure the kids aren’t stepping on each other or hurting themselves in the complex staging that we have to do. We also have to make sure that they are staying in character, which can sometimes be challenging when you’re dealing with a seven-year-old’s attention span. It takes a lot of concentration—we adults have to act too!—and sometimes we have to tell the kids what to do under our breaths on stage. It’s hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun.
In my day job I deal with a lot of numbers and paperwork. Being a super turns all of those spreadsheets into reality and lets me contribute to the actual finished product on stage. It’s very exciting.
[Right: This year's crop of Nibelungen meet together for the very first time.]