Opera Orchestras: What’s Happening in the Pit?

What's going on in with the musicians in an opera who aren't singing?

By Jim Menick

There is a great air of mystery surrounding classical performers, at least to me. What are they thinking if they’re not actually playing? What are they thinking when they are playing? What do they do during intermission? Did that poor woman have to lug that harp to the concert hall on the subway?

Colin Eatock provides a short but informative piece for The Globe and Mail that answers at least some of these questions for an opera orchestra. Keep in mind that, in an opera, the orchestra is hidden, much like at a musical. It’s all about the people on the stage—but it couldn’t happen without the people in the pit. And the people in the pit have their own perspective on things: “It soon becomes apparent that an opera looks quite different to an orchestral player than it does to the audience. Some of the violins have a partial view of the action, whenever a singer comes to the edge of the stage. But there may well be players in the woodwind section who have never seen an opera in their lives, so completely is their view obscured.”

Read Opera’s unsung pit heroes.