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Staff Chats

Connie Yun

Assistant lighting designer Connie Yun spoke to me recently about her plans for Seattle Opera’s upcoming productions, what she does to “replenish the visual fire,” and what lighting and poetry have in common.

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Phil Kelsey

Seattle Opera’s assistant conductor Phil Kelsey has a passion for music that is as contagious as it is omnivorous.

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Dustin Kaspar

Kaspar works full time for the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), screening films and educating the community, but when an opera is in rehearsal, he happily burns the candle at both ends.

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Emmy Ulmer

Emmy Ulmer, Seattle Opera’s titlist, reveals that there is much more to a supertitle—those helpful translated words that appear above the stage in every performance—than meets the eye. Emmy’s job is as much about presenting those words as it is about anticipating the rhythm and comic timing of their delivery, all while keeping out of the music’s way.

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Tony Kay

Meet Tony Kay: Seattle Opera Ticket Office Supervisor by day, pop culture wizard by night. When he’s not serving as a fount of ticketing knowledge in the office, Kay’s presence can be felt all over town, from the trivia nights he hosts at Columbia City Theater to the articles he writes for local publications and blogs. He recently sat down to share stories of his many interests including his unusual obsession with obscure Mexican horror films.

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Yasmine Kiss

With a gift for diplomacy and nerves of steel, Seattle Opera’s Production Stage Manager Yasmine Kiss oversees every detail of our performances orchestrating lighting, scene changes, and singers’ rehearsals and stage entrances. Her job, which ranges from navigating personnel issues to averting disaster, is not for the faint of heart.

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Seneca Garber

If you have attended any of Seattle Opera’s previews in area libraries and museums, or the pre-show talks at the hall, you have likely learned a thing or two from Seattle Opera’s dashing young bow-tied Education Associate. Seneca Garber got hooked on opera as a student himself, and has been here ever since.

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Valerie Muzzolini Gordon

With these performances of Lucia di Lammermoor, harpist Valerie Muzzolini Gordon’s 10-year Seattle career is coming full circle. Her first season with the Seattle Symphony also involved the harp solo in Seattle Opera’s 2000 production of Lucia. A French native and new mom, Gordon spoke to me about improvisation in opera, playing for babies, and her rapid-fire repertoire.

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Jack and Sandy Burke

Sound Designer and Audio Engineer/ Assistant Properties Manager
Jack and Sandy Burke haven been married for 16 years and working together at Seattle Opera for nearly as long. Sandy, who “learned to use tools at an early age,” first worked for Seattle Opera in 1977 as an electrician, and has been Assistant Properties Manager since 1986. Jack—a former musician turned sound engineer who has worked with such artists as Dizzy Gillespie and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble— has been the Sound Designer and Audio Engineer since 1996. They sat down with me to talk about the life of a theater “techie,” backstage romance, and why stagehands dress in black.

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Paula Podemski

Production Supervisor
As Seattle Opera’s Production Supervisor, Paula Podemski deals with all the minuscule details that make the rehearsal and production process run smoothly. One of her main tasks is coordinating the non-singing talent—the supernumeraries, actors, and dancers that fill out a crowd scene onstage. Amidst the craziness of Amelia tech week, she shared with me a bit about her history with hunky bodybuilders, her guilty-pleasure TV shows, and the “soul-feeding” part of her job.

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Lia Surprenant

Seattle Opera Costume Shop's Crafts Supervisor
As the Costume Shop’s Crafts Supervisor, Lia Surprenant, more than perhaps anyone else at the company, knows how bloody the opera business can be. All of the countless opera singers who have been imprisoned, tortured, or wounded in the dramas enacted on Seattle Opera’s stage in the past nine years have worn a costume with Surprenant’s signature artistry.

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Photo Credit

La Traviata, 2009 © Rozarii Lynch