A new opera company in Berkshire County is getting ready for its first-ever performance. The Berkshire Opera Festival has turned to some young people with an interest in theatrical production for help. And they’re getting their hands dirty as they prepare for a production of Madama Butterfly.
Sprawled out on the stage of a Berkshire Community College theater, some former students are dabbing away at a huge backdrop. With a light blue background, they are stenciling, then painting by hand about 600 Japanese waves, in more of an ocean blue, across the 24 by 36 foot sheet.
Former BCC student Kevin Lallatin said it’s been quite an undertaking: first they had to prepare the canvas, and then turn it into a big piece of graph paper before starting to paint.
“We then just lined up the stencil on the inside and stenciled, and then moved down to the next square, stenciled over it, down to the next square, stenciled over it,” Lallatin said.
This will be the main backdrop for the Berkshire Opera Festival’s production of Madama Butterfly.
One of the group’s co-founders, Jonathon Loy, said they approached the college about using its set shop since it would be quiet during the summer months. He said they’ve been thrilled with the students’ work. Loy said putting on an opera takes a lot of people and money. And it all starts with designers.
“There’s a whole group of people that have to come together to create everything,” Loy said. “They have their designs and then those designs go to people that have to sew the costumes, people that have to build the set, the people that have to paint the drop.”
The young people have been working hand-in-hand with those professionals. Kevin McGerigle, BCC’s theatre technical director, said they’ve been learning much more than physical skills.
“I think a lot of it is dedication and how much hard work it takes,” McGerigle said. “It’s not about that last moment with the audience there, it’s all those hours and hours and hours that they put in beforehand that lead them up to that moment that are so important.”
Taking a break from the meticulous work is Alzie Mercado, another former BCC student who now works in the theatre department. With hands covered in light blue paint, she said she’s gained a new appreciation for opera and what it takes to produce one.
“Opera is just really, really cool,” Mercado said. “It’s very talented people, talented actors and musicians in an essence. It’s really fun to work with. I haven’t had that much experience, so I’m really excited to see how it goes.”
And when the show opens at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield later this month, the students will be there too, setting up and moving scenery, back-stage at the opera.
Correction: An earlier version of this post contained an incorrect spelling for Madama Butterfly.