The Joy of Dress Rehearsals

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I got to my seat just before the lights dimmed and the announcement was made.

Before the first note of any overture can be heard, the dramaturg of the Lyric Opera, or some other nicely suited gentleman, walks onto the stage and reminds people that they are about the see a dress rehearsal.

He politely points out that the performers might not choose to sing in full voice and that the production could be stopped, at the director’s discretion, to fix or change things.

I’ve seen many dress rehearsals over the years. I’ve noticed occasions when the crew will be instructed to work on picking up the pace for scene changes, but I’ve never seen a performance stopped and divas or star baritones asked for a do-over.

For the most part, dress rehearsals are as good as performances staged during the official run. It some ways, they’re better.

Before I grabbed a program and journeyed up the aisle to my seat, I remembered the sights of the grand hall.

There were couples with young children, maybe eight to twelve years old. The kids, dressed up in their Sunday clothes for an afternoon outing downtown, fidgeted with excitement.

A caped woman (no, not really a super-hero) scanned their tickets. I tried to imagine their reaction to things inside the auditorium. It holds 3500 and the ceiling is finished in gold leaf.

Not what they’d see at the local cineplex.

While I wondered if their parents would be asked to explain the bawdy parts in their SUV during their ride home, I liked to think that, for a ten year-old, of The Marriage of Figaro is a wonderful introduction to opera.

I liked the idea that this matinee at the Civic Opera House welcomed a good percentage of first timers. Certainly, most of the audience, which represented nearly a full house, were gifted their tickets.

Dress rehearsal tickets at the Lyric are considered donor benefits. Most of my fellow audience members got passes from someone they knew who was a season subscriber or donor.

I am the happy benefactor of four dress rehearsal tickets for this season from my sister who has been a subscriber for a gazillion years.

Dress rehearsal tickets are free! Either a subscriber will choose to use her allotment because she gets a special pleasure from comparing this performance to one from the middle of the run or she gives the ticket to someone she knows who really, really wants to go.

Maybe she has a friend who can’t afford a ticket or maybe knows someone who is just interested in certain operas and not in subscribing for the season.

As I contemplated what was different about this production from other productions of Figaro that I’ve seen, I contemplated this as well; that the audience was so happy to be here.

I think I prefer going to preview nights of plays as well.

Maybe performers love opening nights the most. They enjoy the buzz around a new production, having family members in the audience or the chance that a critic will speak well of them in a review.

Maybe the box office and board members beam at the prospects of a sell-out. For Friday and Saturday night performances, the valet attendants might take special care to service VIPs and nearby eateries are happy to take early dinner reservations.

…But I think I like going to dress rehearsals the best because most audience members are experiencing the performance as a gift.

Being around the energy of appreciation is no small thing.





  • Deborah Hawkins

    Deborah Hawkins has been blogging on gratitude and mindfulness for over a decade, posting over 500 essays. In December of 2019, she brought out two books, The Best of No Small Thing — Mindful Meditations, a collection of favorite blogs, and Practice Gratitude: Transform Your Life — Making the Uplifting Experience of Gratitude Intentional, a workbook on her process. Through her books, classes, and coaching, she teaches people how to identify things to be grateful for in everyday experiences. New blogs are posted every week. Visit her website: Follow her on SM.,

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