Like anyone managing a large team of people and dangerous moveable parts, San Diego Opera head carpenter John David Peters has two goals: “Rule Number 1: nobody gets hurt. Rule Number 2: see Rule Number 1.”
Working with an old production like this one, which was built in 1989 for a different opera and repurposed for “Faust” in 2005, requires verifying every piece of wood and every bolt will stick. It also means constantly interacting with the people inhabiting the sets.
“It’s imperative that we create as safe and comfortable an environment as we can for the singers and the people working on stage,” he said. “If they’re comfortable and feel safe, they’ll relax. They’ll be able to do their job better.”
Some accomodations are too much. Greer Grimsley, singing the role of Mephistopheles, confessed earlier he wasn’t comfortable walking on a staircase. But alas, the crew can’t build a new one and integrate it into the set in time for opening night, so Grimsley will adjust his gait.
Peters did made other accommodations. When he realized part of the audience couldn’t see a singer on stage left at an important moment, he removed two towers so no viewer gets shortchanged.
And throughout rehearsals, his staff will be fine tuning the structures, silencing squeaks, moving things to the left or right, making sure everything on stage is sustaining the action — and secure.