Birdcalls and Spoilers

Birdcalls and Spoilers

Jenna Simeonov

The above is a photo of a birdcall. It was recently loaned to me by the COC, because I’l be using it backstage during the twelve upcoming performances of _Madama Butterfly _(I know, I spoiled the magic of live birds). Backstage things like birdcalls, offstage conducting, ominous door knocking, cueing foghorns, etc., are all neat bonuses of the Music Staff job description. I had been warned, vaguely, when I was learning about the weird responsibilities of the opera coach, that my job wouldn’t be done when the curtain went up on opening night. They were right; the job morphs into duties that continue to surprise me.

And so I’ve been honing my skills at the above birdcall device. It’s the kind that you fill with water to adjust the sound, and I was a little alarmed to find that I couldn’t just dumbly blow into it like a party favour. This required some finesse. I’ve been preparing thoroughly, by watching plenty of nature videos on YouTube and listening to lots of Messiaen.

So there: if Patricia Racette singing some of Puccini’s most ridiculous music in the beautiful Four Seasons Centre doesn’t get you to Madama Butterfly, go to hear the Schmopera Birdcall Debut, live from upstage left. Who says the music staff don’t get enough visibility?

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