Meet Andy Gale and Ms. Teddy Kern,
co-directors and co-writers of

"Backstage Pass: Heart & Music"

Music Theater Revue

               IMG 6932 IMG 6915

Performances July 21 and August 4

10:00pm in Lenna Hall

(Festival Seating. No additional ticket necessary with valid gatepass)


How did you develop the show? What came first, the songs or the story? 

AG: We picked songs that we wanted to work on... then Teddy had the idea to set the piece backstage at a show. 
TK: Originally Andy didn't love the idea, but a few days later he came back to me, saying "let's do backstage at the last night of a run".
AG: The stakes are higher, there's more specificity. Then we were talking to Barney [B.G. Fitzgerald, Resident Costume Designer] and he had the idea of doing it backstage at the last performance of Hair. And we thought it was a great idea! It's specific; it's relate-able for the singers. So it was really a collaborative effort to create a framework of a narrative in which each singer can come through individually and collectively. Instead of a "Songs of Sondheim" or "Songs of Cole Porter," we programmed a range of songs from the 1920s to the 2000s to develop the community and the highlight the emotional arc of a theatrical troupe.

How was it working with singers on choreography?

TK: It was great! That is my experience. Over the past 40 years, I've worked with singers on dance and movement. 
AG: She knows how to convey technical knowledge in a way that non-dancers understand. And she has a magic touch. A pixie-dust unique to Teddy. Anybody can explain to singers "how to dance". But Teddy knows how to make dance technique palatable for people without that kind of training. I do not mean to talk for her, but she knows how to convey style, history, and intent. She explains why a certain posture exists; why women dance with men in a particular style. It creates a wholeness to the movement she creates.
TK: I know how choreographers talk. They create a behavior and posture unfamiliar to singers. Consequently, the singers retreat; they do not inhabit the movement. I've learned how to remove the sense of intimidation of "dancing" for singers so they can feel as comfortable and natural doing the movements.

What makes your program "Backstage Pass: Heart and Music" special?

AG: Well, there are 12 phenomenal singing actors that you become familiar with--their joy, frustration, and excitement. We think we've created a new, intimate scenario born by the order of the pieces that illustrates a sense of belonging and of needing to be part of something more than oneself. This may come from a boyfriend/girlfriend, a job, a pet. For many of us, this also comes from being part of a theater troupe. Closing night often offers the nostalgic lens to see the journey we have taken together. We tried to mirror that journey in the writing of this program. 








Emily Jarrell Urbanek (photo by Sarah Cohn)Emily Jarrell Urbanek



Emily is in her 9th summer with Chautauqua Opera. We asked her a few questions about life as an opera coach:

Q: What does a typical day at the “office” look like for you?

EJU: There isn't really a "typical" day, but it usually contains some combination of coaching singers, practicing piano for myself, and rehearsing with the company, and fairly often (though not daily) researching and performing.

Now that I'm playing for [Eugene Onegin], my time will mostly be spent in staging and music rehearsal; I'll come in at 9:30 to warm up for rehearsal and get my head on straight, then rehearse 10-1pm, 2-5pm and a couple hours in the evening. Once orchestra rehearsals start, I will attend those to listen for issues that might need to be addressed with the orchestra parts or the singers, and eventually for balance once we get in the theater. Before Onegin rehearsals started, I was coaching 3 to 5 hours a day, rehearsing with members of my recital team, and spending a couple of hours practicing recital material and Onegin every day.

Research can often be done over a meal, or during a free afternoon, or less ideally, late at night. I have to find time to read up on arias I'm coaching (e.g., for the Opera Highlights concert), listen to a few YouTube performances, etc.

And this summer I've been doing some Russian coaching, which means I make my own translation and IPA (an online, pronunciation guide) of songs and arias before I go into a coaching session. So my job can sometimes be challenging to balance, but it is rarely boring!

Photo by Sarah Cohn

Q: What do you love about opera?

EJU: I love opera because of all the different disciplines it involves, and all the artists and experts in their fields who contribute to a great performance. The voices, the singing actors, the orchestra, the dancers, the theatrical arts, the efficiency of everyone behind the scenes, the frequent connection to great literature or to cultural eras, the usually glorious tension between the stage director and the Maestro, the administration that deals with all these people and their various artistic personalities . . . where else is there so much creative energy in such a concentrated place on such a tight budget?

Oh, and the languages! The sounds and expressiveness of all the different languages. I am most immersed in is Russian right now, although it is definitely not the one I speak the best. But it is such a rich, interesting language and so beautiful to sing, and there's a lot of song repertoire out there that I would like to get more familiar with now that I have spent some time with Russian.

It is very satisfying to be a part of the fullness and infinite possibility of the opera world.




georgiGeorgianna Eberhard

Wig and Makeup Designer


Q: What does a typical day at the “office” look like for you?

GE: Our "typical" day is always different. One day, we are doing wig fittings, where we prepare the artist's hair as if we were doing an actual performance, then try on different "looks" for them. Sometimes, it's just one wig; sometimes it's more than one wig, different hair colors, etc. On men, we sometimes need to match their own hair color to fake mustaches and sideburns. Other days, we are washing 12-20 wigs like human heads-shampoo, shampoo, condition, set, then style! Other days, we are giving makeup classes to staff or young artists. We like to play jazz or blues and keep in a groove!

Photo by Sarah Cohn

Q: What do you love about opera?

EG: I fell in love with opera when I was 11, listening to the Moonstruck recording of La bohème. So, over 50 years of much love and passion to this art form!

I love that it is bigger and grander than life, but reflects all of life's joys and sorrows in such glorious music. It can express the inexpressible-longing, love, hate, devotion, sadness, madness, despair-in a way that one can recognize it immediately.

Some of my favorite operas are Verdi's Otello, Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame, Strauss's Elektra, Salome, and Die Frau Ohne Schatten.




11817141 10153149157133335 2669602942254783160 nAmanda Williams

Props Master


This is Amanda's first summer as props master(mind) for Chautauqua Opera. We asked her a few questions:

Q: What does a typical day at the “office” look like for you?

AW: No days are "typical". Sometimes I'm out shopping for a prop or driving to every thrift store in a 50 mile radius trying to find some sort of pewter pitcher or a very specific set of chairs a director and a designer have their heart set on. Sometimes I'm making a bloody warrior head. Sometimes I'm scouring the internet for foliage or goblets. That's one of the reasons why I love doing props - my days are never dull. I've yet to find a theatre or opera company that gives me a routine schedule.

Photo by Sarah Cohn

Q: What do you love about opera?

I love the grand scale of show we put on, and I'm constantly in awe of the powerful voices of the performers in the shows I prop. I primarily work in theatre during the rest of the year, so it's interesting to build up to this grand spectacle that only has one or two performances, and to get the vast quantities of props required for the various roles the chorus plays. God bless the chorus members for being able to flit between 3-4 roles in any given show.

It's also interesting because some of the things we do in opera make absolutely no sense for a theatre show; the theatre I work at during August-May has a very small, intimate stage. I am usually having to really polish the fine details of each prop for peak realism. In opera, we won't see those fine details because the closest audience member is still usually 30-40 feet away from the stage, and those details just don't read once you get up into the balcony. So we exaggerate, create items that have high contrast, or sometimes (in the case of the skulls for Macbeth) we add glitter. It's fun to get to do that.





"Supers" (Supernumeraries) are people of all ages who volunteer their time and act as "extras" in Chautauqua Opera productions. Volunteers may perform as waiters, guards, townsfolk, etc. according to the production's needs.

We look for enthusiastic and dependable people of all ages and types. Chautauqua Opera provides opportunities for community members to work with international singers.

If a need for Supers in the 2017 season arises, it will be announced at a later date.

Children's Chorus

For children who sing, the Chautauqua Opera often offers the opportunity to perform throughout the summer season. Under the supervision of Music Administrator/ Chorus Master, Carol Rausch, the children's chorus is exposed to a rich and varied musical experience as well as an authentic theatre environment. The children's chorus will work with directors, singers, actors and musicians. As a result of all these contacts, they can learn teamwork and responsibility as well as respect for their own talents and those of their fellow performers. Many have gone on to further their drama and musical experience; all have deepened their appreciation of the performing arts.

If a need for children in the 2017 season arises, it will be announced at a later date.