We’re honoring and showcasing the invaluable contributions of Black artists and individuals to the opera world all February long. And while we look around at all the doers and shakers in classical music, we’re taking a moment to spotlight some of our own staff who keep the opera wheels turning right here in Los Angeles.
Nikki Hyde | Stage Management, Production
Odds are, you probably haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Nikki Hyde, but you’ve likely seen her name listed in the credits in a number of our programs. Over the last seven years, Nikki has been a staple in our all-star stage management team, helping us run all the moving parts of dozens of productions from behind the curtain (which is no small feat).
After all those years behind the scenes, we wanted to pull Nikki into the spotlight and give you all the opportunity to know one of the key players in a ton of your favorite productions.
Hi, my name is Nikki Hyde and I am part of the stage management team, the production staff at LA opera. My first show with LA Opera was in 2014. It was a Streetcar Named Desire, and I've worked on several stage management teams since.
How did you get into stage management?
How I got into stage management, I think is a pretty common story. I grew up doing theater. I don't know if that's actually very common, but, my parents got me into doing theater. They're also performers and I never liked auditioning. I really always had a lot of anxiety about getting in front of people and performing, but I enjoyed the community so much that I kept doing it. And it wasn't really until I got into college that I realized that there were opportunities to work in theater that weren’t onstage. And it really wasn't until I decided to take a production internship with Cornerstone Theater Company, which is here in Los Angeles, that I really got to observe and understand the full scope of the stage manager's job. And I knew at that point that was what I wanted to pursue because I feel like stage management encompasses the best of performing and being on stage while still being part of the creative process.
And what do you love about it?
I feel like it's the best seat in the house. We get to watch the show come from, you know, the idea and the things that you're working out and experimenting with in rehearsal to what the actual show ends up being that the audience gets to see.
What does a typical day look like for you?
So a typical day for an LA Opera stage manager, it varies. And I think that's what makes this job so interesting. Oftentimes we get in an hour or so before the start of rehearsal, if we have meetings, we have those with the costume shop or props or [whoever else]. We also spend time maybe updating paperwork.
30 minutes before the start of any rehearsal, we are up in the rehearsal room, getting everything set up with props and costumes, so that we're ready to start with the artists. We are in rehearsal each day, somewhere between three and nine hours, depending on what we're doing that day. And then at the end of the day, we usually have a little meeting with the stage management team, exchange notes, and then the stage manager of that production sends out the report to the larger company about what happened in rehearsal that day.
Since you come from a theater background, how has the transition to opera been?
I love having the opportunity to work both in theater and opera, but the thing that I love about opera is watching the athleticism of the singers, and just the amazing caliber of talent that the singers and the musicians and the conductors have. And you're bringing all of these different groups of people who are at the peak of their artistry together; the designers and directors in addition to all the musicians, and you're kind of bringing them all together. And sometimes it feels like we're not going to get it all together. We're not all going to end up on the same page to create this, this massive production, but then we do. And when it all comes together, there's this moment where, especially as a stage manager, you take a deep breath and you're just like, “Oh, my gosh, we did it.”
We have to ask, what are some of your favorite operas?
I feel like I've had a lot of opportunities to work on a lot of the classics. I’ve worked on Carmen and I've worked on La Traviata a few times and I got to do my first La Bohème and Magic Flute last year. So that's been really wonderful to get to work on the canon of operas that are done very, very frequently. But I've also had this really great opportunity to work on some new operas and chamber operas.
And what are some of the most memorable productions you’ve worked on?
I just worked on Eurydice—while not just—it was about a year ago, but I got to work on the world premiere of Eurydice at LA Opera. So having the librettist and the composer in the room and really developing this new work, it felt like a wonderful marriage between my work as a theater stage manager and my work as an opera stage manager.
But I think one of the most transformative productions that I've had the pleasure of working on was at LA Opera. And it was Satyagraha, which is the Phillip Glass opera about Gandhi. And being part of that piece, which is relatively new in the grand scheme of things, was transformative in an artistic way. It was—and it will—be that one [production] that will stick with me for my entire career.
What production are you looking forward to in our 2021/22 season?
So looking forward to the 2021, 2022 season at LA Opera, I am very excited because I am going to be on Tannhäuser, which was supposed to happen this past fall. But I'm very excited that it should be coming back in the fall of 2021.
And what in general are you most looking forward to when we get to return to the stage?
I am so excited to see and work with my colleagues. I am excited to get back into a rehearsal room, get back on stage. I think I took for granted how much my work was my community and my family, and it still remains that. But it's difficult when you can't be an in-person community with everyone.
I look forward to hearing music. I went to one drive-in opera experience, and as soon as the orchestra started to tune, I got tears in my eyes because I didn't realize how deprived I was of that live experience. So I look forward to all of those things.