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Summer Planning Extravaganza!

Zackery Hayhurst – June 18, 2015

At the end of each Arizona Opera season, I am often asked by people what I plan to do with all my free time. It’s an obvious question. After all, it appears nothing is happening once the artists have all gone, the stage darkens, and the audiences go home. However, everything that you see onstage during the opera season is the result of months of planning and preparation—the bulk of which happens during the summer.

Here are just a few of the things we do over the summer in preparation for what’s to come in the following season(s):

Casting: Filling ROles

Even though most casting takes place 12-16 months in advance, there are still a number of smaller roles to fill much closer to the opening night. Supernumeraries (all of the non-speaking/non-singing actors on stage) are sought out and cast during the summer and early fall months.


This is also the time we start scouting child actors (if necessary) and any other bodies that will help “flesh” out the artistic vision of the stage director (i.e., dancers, acrobats, puppeteers, animals, etc.).

Creation: COstumes & Scenery

All of the fabulous costumes and scenery you see on stage take many months and long hours to create and assemble. The summer is the time for building! This coming season, all five productions will be new to Arizona Opera. That is to say, everything you see on stage next year, in terms of set and costumes, will have never been seen before at Arizona Opera! It’s exciting, but it is also a lot of work to prepare. Our production and costume departments are hard at work all summer on these projects

Scouting: Seeing New Productions

As with most people who live in Arizona and know how brutal the summers are, finding ways to escape the heat are essential. Luckily for us in the artistic department, there is opera still going on around the country, which are prime locations for seeing new productions, hearing new singers, and finding innovative concepts to bring back to Arizona. Some of my favorite places to frequent each summer are Santa Fe Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Wolf Trap Opera, Fort Worth Opera Festival and Opera Theatre of St. Louis, to name a few. These companies operate in a festival format throughout the summer, and are a great way to escape the heat of Arizona and see new and different productions.

Future seasons: Thinking long term

Summer is also when we have the time to think more long-term, and flesh out ideas for opera seasons two, three, sometimes four years in advance. Especially for projects that are new, as with our upcoming world premiere of Riders of the Purple Sage, it takes years for a project to develop from conception, to creation, to execution. In the case of Riders of the Purple Sage, it will be a four year project once all is said and done.


As you can see, although the summer months are not action packed with singers on stage and orchestra members in the pit, there is still plenty of action behind the scenes here at Arizona Opera. I know what I’ll be doing this summer, how about you?