Opera Australia's Thomas Hall with a prosthetic severed head of his character Jokanaan in Salome.

Lifelike ... Salome features a disturbingly realistic severed head prop. Photo: Angela Wylie

1

The singers don't use microphones, even though they're singing accompanied by a live orchestra.

 

2

Opera Australia doesn't run the same opera night after night as theatre companies do. Rather, it puts on up to eight performances a week, including up to five different productions.

 

3

Opera Australia engages up to 150 musicians (60 permanent and 90 casual), with up to 20 conductors involved in more than 250 performances of up to 20 different opera and ballet productions a year.

 

4

The largest show in the current repertoire is A Masked Ball. The crew starts at 7am on the day of a performance to be ready for a 7.30pm show. After the show the crew is on until 4am to pack it up and put in the set for the next opera being performed that night.

 

5

Each production has at least three stage managers, four props staff, 10 dressers, four make-up and wigs staff, and 25 backstage crew, including electricians, lighting, mechanists and surtitle operators.

 

6

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has a lifeguard.

 

7

The wardrobe department employs 20 machinists, six cutters, four wig makers (each wig uses about 120 grams of real hair) and one milliner.

 

8

In the past 12 months, the company has used about 20,000 buttons.

 

9

The Carmen costumes need about 7000 metres of fabric.

 

10

The youngest performer was four years old (in Madama Butterfly).

 

11

The youngest singers were seven years old; the oldest in their late 70s.

 

12

Aida has one of the largest casts, with 84 people on stage at the same time.

 

13

Most operas rehearse for five to six weeks before opening night.

 

14

Opera Australia occasionally needs animals on stage. These have included a donkey, a crow, horses, chickens, three coloured poodles and 12 dachshunds.

 

15

There are always extraordinary props, including cars, trucks, human skeletons, a roast dog, an extremely lifelike severed head and a full-scale elephant (which was so real it elicited letters from the audience concerned for its welfare).