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Subject: Re: Met's Gold Curtain
From: marcus overton <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:marcus overton <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 25 Apr 2017 23:36:43 +0000
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From its inception (1954) through the late 60s and into the 70s, Lyric Opera of Chicago always used what everyone here seems to call a "Wagner" curtain.  Carol Fox insisted further, for more than a decade, that the curtain be "opened" and accompanied on its closing, by two liveried curtain pages, who sat on small stools at each side of the proscenium arch (though not usually in sight of the audience) throughout the entire performance.  The pages also served usefully during the bows (after each act, for many years throughout the 60s and even into the 70s) as "curtain pages" who held the curtain open for the singers to go through (this was the scene of many a drama as many divas and divos jockeyed to be the last one to take a bow - even when the bow list, with Fox's signature on it and therefore divine writ, said otherwise.)
The curtain was enormous, weighed down with huge tassels and braid, the fabric itself being not only a heavy velvet, but lined as well with a heavy canvas.  Production staff had long ago (by then, the late 60s/early 70s, I was Production Stage Manager) made a small peep-hole in the curtain at roughly eye level, so that we could check on how the house was filling up on bad weather nights, and therefore calculate how long we could hold the curtain.  This was dicey, as orchestra overtime was - on nights of long operas - an ever-present danger, and one which could bring down the wrath of Miss Fox at 11:01, when the click of her shoes up the long alley at stage right from the house meant that trouble was looming.
The curtain was operated by a combination of hydraulics and weights, and its ascent and descent could be exquisitely timed to coincide with the last note or even the single beat ending an act or scene.  Stage managers vied to see who could control its descent with the most finesse, and the Head Flyman (I remember a laconic fellow named Harvey George whose ability to ease or speed it down was imporessive) controlled it by means of a cable (that disappeared upward into the dark) on which he tugged gently or brutally as needed.
Needles to say, the curtain pages did not "walk" the curtain down when it was a question of a lightning quick drop, or they would have been crushed when the weight of each side met in the middle.
Final note: In front of that pipe holding the grand drape was one of the most striking steel (or "fire") curtains in the world, with a gigantic mural that anyone who has gazed on it while waiting for a performance to began can never forget.  It would be raised about 15 minutes or 30 minutes before announced curtain time.  In my own experience, only the Tiffany stained glass fire curtain in Mexico City's Bellas Artes matches it.
I have not been to a performance in that auditorium (now named for Ardis Krainik) in several years, but I suspect the grand drape is no longer used, or not used in that way, or rarely.  And that's a pity.
MLO MARCUS L. OVERTON5581 Adobe Falls Road Unit A San Diego CA 92120-4470619.286.5581

      From: Alan Ruskis <[log in to unmask]>
 To: [log in to unmask] 
 Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 4:11 PM
 Subject: Re: Met's Gold Curtain
   
The MET posses what I believe is the largest "Wagner curtain" in the 
world.  This type of curtain, one of 2 "gold curtains" was designed by RW 
for the theater at Bayreuth.  His desire was to have a curtain that could 
bring an act to a sudden close.  The traditional guillotine type of curtain 
(with sandbag counterweights) could not be pulled quickly and then stop.  
This design, with the intrinsic drawstring, could be let go and flop quickly to 
close without any unintended consequences.  It is the only curtain I have 
ever seen used at Bayreuth.  I can only imagine it was the first act of 
Walkeure that prompted the design. The MET also has a traditional gold 
guillotine type curtain.  That one can pulled to the very top out of view, 
and has allowed some awesomely tall productions in the past.  I recall 
Aida, a few vintages ago.

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