How Does an Opera Company Change Its Light Bulbs?

Received recently via email – a collaborative effort from some notable (dare I say pre-eminent) colleagues, the following musings on how opera companies change their light bulbs.

Unattributed, unless otherwise indicated :) If there are attributions that should be made, please notify me! (Gotta be ever-mindful of intellectual property, you know.)


I do NOT change light bulbs; nowhere in my contract does it SAY I change light bulbs. …I didn’t break it during the fioratura aria, did I…?


Eh, sure. Why not. I’m already wearing pants andhalfwayup a ladder anyway.

Variant: How many mezzo-sopranos does it take to change a light bulb? Two. One to change the bulb and one to complain that it is “too high.” (Jonathan Pell)


Oh, for heaven’s sake, what’s all the fuss? Give it to me,I’ll do it.


What kind of question is that? Of course I know how tochange a light bulb. What, you think that just because I can sing two octaves higher than most men that I don’t know how to do what most men can? Is that it?


Placido Domingo can light up the Met’s gold ceiling with hissinging and compensate for any lack of lighting. Are you suggesting I can’t do the same here?

Variant: How many tenors does it take to change a light bulb? Just one. He holds on to the bulb and expects the world to revolve around him. (Jonathan Pell)


Of course I can. Easily. With one hand tied behind my back. While juggling three other light bulbs in my tied hand.


Oh, why not, I’ve got an hour and a half until my first entrance, anyway.


Eh… I can’t. I’m sorry. I’m already carrying four props, two set pieces, a chair, a cloak, and a censer. I MIGHT be able to get itwith my teeth…


Okay, but can you leave it off during the performance? The timpani player is complaining of the glare.


I block them in the light. If they can’t find their light, they shouldn’t be in the business.


Of course I’ll help! Can we put in some pink gels? Itw arms up the gold in the principals’ Act III costumes. Ooh, and what about a liquid filter for Act II, Scene 4?


NO! You can’t change the light! I’ve already selected all their hues!


Don’t touch my lights! I’ll do it!


No way, man. The Light Tech would KILL me.


Just tell us where this light is going to shine andwe’ll be sure to stay OUT of it.


I need to know how this change will affect each and every cast member in all scenes and transitions, and write it down in my score, in pencil. Do you have any more post-it tabs?


I don’t care. Don’t touch my table.


Do whatever you want, but IT MUST BE IN FINAL FORM BY 5 PM!!!!!


OK, you guys go get the light bulb and bring it uphere. Now you two go get the ladder. Good. Now. Put the ladder here. No, HERE! Now, can you climb ladders? No? OK, who here can climb a ladder? Great. Got your harness, got your gloves, great. Now, take this and climb up here. Like this. NO! LIKE THIS! Here, give me that. Now watch me…climb like this…reach up here like this…unscrew this…screw in this…got it? Great. Next time you can do it.


Sure, but first I’ll examine the manuscript and determinehow it was done at the premiere of this opera, then I’ll work on how we can make the symbolism of the light bulb change relevant to contemporaryaudiences. (Cori Ellison)


We’ll swap it asap for a compact fluorescent. Happy to get those incandescent suckers outta here!


Fine, I’ll do it. Let’s keep this quiet, though. You didn’t tell the Tenor about this, did you?


The Creative Staff of our Publications Division is going to press with the light bulb piece at 4PM on 2/15/08. WARNING: Any changes submitted past this hard deadline will not be considered.


Can we wait for a while on the light bulb change? If we’re able to demonstrate that it is critical to our operations, we might be able to raise money to change it.


The Executive committee of the Board of Directors,working closely with Management, will form a committee to discuss the size,wattage, cost, and other specs and effects of the light bulb. A taskforce will be designated to inquire on possible branding initiatives, marketing tie-ins with light bulb companies, etc. The committee is to meet regularly and frequently, and is of course expected not to discuss its deliberations outside of committee meetings. PowerPoint should be very useful in conveying the information gathered and hopefully will be augmented with Excel charts. The committee may deem it necessaryto bring in outside third party consultants to provide benchmarks and a time line for deliverables. Feasibility studies will be required as well as on-site visits to other non-profits that have successfullychanged a light bulb. The cost of consultant(s) and feasibility studies will be underwritten by a special campaign that will target this need. We expect to have a strategic plan in place which addresses a master plan as to how to change this light bulb in about six months, at which point a town hall-style forum will be held with donors and subscribers to bring in further opinions revolving around the “Plan for a Brighter Future” light bulb Project. A press release is forthcoming. (by Matt Gurry with edits and additional contributions from Robin Thompson)


Dark Violet

Kim, that’s absolutely brilliant. I must forward this to several friends and colleagues.


Jacob's grandmom

What a bunch of chuckles. This post is going to have so many forwards, it will be like spam!


from a lighting designer:

please don’t touch the lights. we would prefer if you did not breathe near them.

however we ourselves don’t change light bulbs. we complain to the technical director, he calls in the master electrician to change it, he tells a member of the lighting crew to do it and he wakes up the intern from his one hour of daily sleep to ask why it hasn’t been done yet. then they all come back as a group and inform you that the lighting crew doesn’t change light bulbs only halogen lamps, that’s a props thing.

without fail during the next break props will quietly and discreetly come to you, lamp and bulb in hand to ask you to change it for them because they don’t know how.

we cry when a there is burn out mid show.

name withheld to protect the innocent
i.e. the ld that will soon need to ask for a change or worse to replace a working light that is just looking dim


“Don’t touch my table”–YES! For good measure, that’s very similar to one of the best lines of the great “Shakespeare in Love” as brawling actors smash theater benches over one another: “Not with my props!!”


great stuff, kim — there’s also:

“How many stage directors does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Um… Well… I guess… I mean… I dunno… What do you think I should do…?”

“How many stage managers does it take to-“

“I’ve already done it! Get off my back!”


How many sopranos…
Three, one to change it,and two to stand and mutter “She’ll never get up that high…”

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