Fighting Mad

I was seriously injured on opening night doing a fight scene with an Italian whose English was very limited. There was no translator provided in rehearsals so he probably didn’t understand the Fight Director instructions to, “Make sure you have eye contact before you swing” and other crucial elements to safe fight scenes. He kept closing his eyes, or turning his head when he swung. When I turned after one of the choreographed moves, he had his head turned away from me and had already swung. The blade sliced into my ear and the show had to be stopped as I was taken to the hospital. It was very traumatic for the audience, for the singers and for me. If I had it to do over again, I would have insisted that there be a translator at every rehearsal and every performance. I was very lucky, but I could have been hurt much worse because of someone in administration trying to cut corners (no pun intended). Does it really cost opera companies that much more to take care of their singers? —Name Withheld

In one production, the company had me, a singer, staging my own fight scenes because they hadn’t budgeted for a professional fight choreographer. (I knew more than anyone else there). When I think back to this, I wonder why the other singers let this happen. Not only is it against AGMA rules, it isn’t safe. We all should have approached the director about dropping the fight scene or hiring a professional but none of us said a thing. And the reason no one said anything was out of fear that they would be replaced. —Name Withheld

It takes a lot of time to choreograph a fight scene. It must be done in slow motion over and over until it is second nature for everyone involved. STAGE (from General) Directors need to remember that we are NOT professional swordsmen. If were expected to look like Erol Flynn by performance time, singers have to insist on enough rehearsal. Without it, you have an accident (and a potential lawsuit) waiting to happen. —Name Withheld

Many singers get into the performance moment and become too aggressive. You often see singers with bruises and other injuries. How many university vocal performance degrees have a stage combat course as part of their required curriculum? So you get in to these professional situations having never learned how to fall, how to use a sword or deal with performance aggression under the watchful eye of a trained professional. Some people get their hands on a sword and suddenly think they are “Conan”. This is very dangerous. I’ve learned to watch for singers with this type of personality and when I sense a problem, I bring the rehearsal to a screeching halt and insist that the fight choreographer work with this artist until he/she calms down. —Name Withheld