At this time of year each season the orchestra splits. And it is at this time each season I try to explain it.
The St. Louis Symphony is the pit orchestra for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. I won’t offer any Tales from the Pit–they are too numerous and too harrowing–but suffice to say the space is tight. You try and get the above percussion in there, plus the percussionists and the rest of the Green “split.” Our stagehands manage it every year. (We call the two orchestras “splits,” Green split or Red split.)
So the orchestra must divide to conquer the opera rep. Director of Orchestra Personnel Beth Paine coordinates with musicians and with Opera Theatre as to who goes on which split. Let’s say a conductor wants a certain principal player for his or her production. Beth tries to make that work. Or let’s say a couple in the orchestra wants to be in the same split, or maybe they don’t because one needs to get the kids while the other is playing Strauss. What are the orchestral needs of each production? As you can guess, they usually don’t break down evenly. And then who plays David Bowie and who plays Paul McCartney for the Live at Powell Hall shows? How to make this all work, fairly and artistically, is one of the many things Beth does.
The Link Up concerts this week featured the Red split. Those same musicians rehearsed Verdi’s Macbeth with Stephen Lord the next day. The Greens were in the hall Friday afternoon rehearsing Puccini’s La boheme with Emanuele Andrizzi conducting, and with vocalists Hae Ji Chang (Mimi), Lauren Michelle (Musetta), Anthony Clark Evans (Marcello), and Andrew Haji (Rodolfo). The sound was as full of life as a story of poverty and tragic death can be.
The full St. Louis Symphony gets back together for the last time this season for the Pokemon concerts on Saturday and Sunday. Then it’s Splitsville.