Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Word of the Week: Supernumerary


"Super-what?" That's what I said when a friend told me back in 2002 that he was going to audition with the Washington National Opera as a supernumerary--a non-singing acting role--in the cast for Verdi's opera "Aida."

Seven years and more than 15 opera productions later, I am currently onstage, along with group of fellow "supers" (see photo), in the WNO's production of "The Barber of Seville" at the Kennedy Center.

Supernumerary comes from Latin super numerum, "beyond the number." Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines the noun as "an actor employed to play a walk-on." (For an extended discussion of supernumerary actors, check out this Wikipedia link, with special thanks to WNO Supernumerary Guild President Mike Walker.)

My first supernumerary role, in "Aida" (I auditioned along with my friend and got the part), was as the king's guard. I've since played many guards, servants, and townspeople, sharing the stage with such luminaries as Plácido Domingo, Denyce Graves, and Salvatore Licitra. It's thrilling to work closely with those talented stars, along with the hundreds of other people who contribute to a finished opera, from the performers and chorus, to stagehands, musicians, dressers, costumers, makeup artists, and especially fellow supers.

My life has been enriched by this wonderful experience. (I even met my partner when we were both supers in "Tosca.") My heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone that I have worked with over the years.

If you have the opportunity to catch the current production of "The Barber of Seville" at the Kennedy Center, be sure to look out for me at the top of the show playing a servant. And in the second act, I play the role of the notary.

Pictured from left: David Brindley, Cynthia Hanna (as "Berta") Rey Rivera, Marcos Moncada, and Mike Walker (kneeling)