The Art of Singing (and Eating) in Front of a Live Audience

The LA Opera's "Falstaff" is full of food -- real food -- that the performers consume on stage.

By Alysia Gray Painter
|  Friday, Nov 8, 2013  |  Updated 12:58 PM PDT
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The Art of Singing (and Eating) in Front of a Live Audience

2013 Robert Millard

Verdi's "Falstaff," a production full of actual foodstuffs, opens at the Dorothy Chandler on Saturday, Nov. 9. The LA Opera feast will run for six performances. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Robert Millard (�) Copyright 2013 Robert Millard www.MillardPhotos.com

We very often believe, when we grow up, that we'll leave the games and pursuits of childhood behind us.

But we know that, as adults, we regularly call upon our talents of yore. Take rubbing your tummy and patting your head, simultaneously. Don't you kind of do that at the office, in some fashion, every day, for a variety of reasons?

Not literally, of course. In the "managing two things at once" sense.

The performers of "Falstaff" certainly do. The Los Angeles Opera is set to stage Verdi's joyful, jovial masterwork in honor of the composer's 200th birthday starting on Saturday, Nov. 9. And if you know Falstaff -- and we'll guess you do, given that he's one of storydom's most comic figures -- you know that he's rather fond of the pleasures of the table.

Which means this: The opera stars on stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion are tasked not just with hitting the proverbial high notes and emoting during arias, they must eat between notes and around singing moments as well. That's real food up on stage with them, not the plastic, let's-pretend-to-gnaw-on-this-silicon-bread props sometime seen in other live performances.

Singing while eating, and vice versa? Let's call this way, way beyond the ol' tummy-rubbing-head-patting game.

It's downright challenging. Mezzo Soprano Ronnita Nicole Miller must take a bite of turkey during the show, and other performers will be consuming from the full spread that the crew prepares every night of the six-show run. And it isn't just a turkey leg on the platter; a full turkey is cooked for each performance.

Ms. Miller talked about the importance of timing bites during a backstage visit with reporters, and the differences between drier foods (making the next few notes rather harder) vs. an edible that doesn't make the performer need to reach for the nearest flagon of water.

Intrigued? Yes. It's one thing to stage a world-famous opera and another to also casually eat while easily championing a whole range of octaves. Think of that next time you sit down with a bag of chips. Could you masterfully spin out a beloved opera between each crunch?

"Falstaff" chortles at the Dorothy Chandler on select nights from Saturday, Nov. 9 through Sunday, Dec. 1.

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