Each year, I photograph the Student Matinee at Opera Colorado. This show is performed by the Opera Colorado Young Artists for an audience of students from elementary and high schools around Colorado. It’s an amazing opportunity for students to see professional opera production on the main stage. In past years, students got the chance to see Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter. Denver performing arts photography can present a few challenges so I wanted to go into my approach to photographing this show.
The unusual thing about this performance is that there is no time for a dress rehearsal. The Young Artists only perform this show one time, on stage, and that is in front of a full audience. This is a huge challenge for them but you would never guess it. They always perform amazingly for the students! It’s also a challenge for me! Photographing with a live audience isn’t always preferred because it can be difficult to get the photos I need, without being disruptive. There are a few steps I take to make sure I stay quiet and out of the way, while still making the best images possible.
I always dress in black, head to toe. If you know me, you know this is very out of character! I love wearing colorful clothes, but for these performances, I need to blend into the darkness. I also know this theater well, so I know where I can be that is out of the way and what paths to take. I set up a little home base, that is very out of the way of the audience. It’s also right in the center of the theater, so it’s perfect for getting wide-angle photos to show the whole scene and the set.
Seeing a show before photographing it, is really helpful because I can plan where to be when and what angle and lens I want to use at each point in the show. I’m always able to see this opera (performed by the mainstage artists) before photographing the Student Matinee, which is great. I do move around the theater a lot when I photograph performances, but I’m able to gauge the best times to move without being disruptive. I also make sure I crouch down as much as possible, in the aisles so I’m not blocking anyone’s view. I’m always aware of the music and I try to click during the loudest points and keep it to a minimum during the quiet moments.
It’s usually ideal to photograph a performance during a dress rehearsal, but that isn’t always an option. A lot of times companies don’t have access to the theater before the show opens. Sometimes, the show isn’t quite polished off until the audience is in their seats. Photographing with an audience can be the best option, in some cases. Using these methods, I haven’t heard any audience complaints, and I’m still able to get a wide variety of images for my clients!
Lucia di Lammermoor Cast and Crew
Opera by Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano
Conductor: Andres Caldera
Stage Director: Jordan Braun
Lighting Designer: Lucas Krech
Wig and Makeup Design: Ronell Oliveri
Accompanist: Parisa Zaeri
Young Artist Director: Cherity Koepke