Watch the Met Opera stage a sea of blood
When it comes to blood, Quentin Tarantino has nothing on the Metropolitan Opera. Stabbings, shootings, torture and beheadings are routine at the Met. But the bloodiest show of them all may be François Girard’s production of Wagner’s “Parsifal,” which returns on Feb. 5 and floods the theater’s vast stage with some 1,250 gallons of the stuff.
The stage blood — made from a recipe that includes tap water, glycerin, and red and blue dye, mixed to taste — is created in Brooklyn by a company called J&M Special Effects, which heats and trucks it to the Met in 250-gallon rectangular tanks before each performance.
Since opera singers do not care for frozen feet, the blood is kept warm in the tanks, which are swaddled in industrial-grade heating blankets until the last possible moment. At eight minutes before the curtain went up at a recent rehearsal, Terry Ganley, a stage manager, gave the cue.
“Fill ’er up,” she told a team of stagehands, many of whom wore rubber boots. The blood flowed.
The Met isn’t trying to create a slasher opera. “Parsifal” is Wagner’s metaphysical meditation on the knights of the Holy Grail, the goblet supposedly used at the Last Supper and which later caught Jesus’s blood on the cross. Their leader, Amfortas, suffers from a mysterious wound that will not heal. In Mr. Girard’s poetic 2013 production, blood is a central visual element.
“The overall staging didn’t glue until we started playing with blood, because that is ultimately the voltage of the piece,” said Mr. Girard, who has included a river of blood; a bleeding bed; and, here, in Act II, a shallow pool of blood that covers the stage. “There was a lot of resistance: You can imagine the nightmare. But they’ve mastered it now.”
The Met tries to keep the blood warm for the singers and dancers who must stand in it — for a typically Wagnerian hourlong act — by placing heating pads under the red vinyl that lines the pool onstage. But the blood begins cooling as soon as it pours out. Philip J. Volpe, the Met’s master electrician, monitors its temperature with an infrared thermometer.
Keeping things neat and safe with over 1,000 gallons of fake blood sloshing around is not easy. An overflow trough sits behind the pool. Rows of chairs with towels and sandals are placed for the performers coming off the bloody stage, and absorbent mats and brown paper are taped along the path to their dressing rooms. Members of the stage crew are posted beneath the stage to make sure no blood seeps into the Met’s underground storage areas, where sets for operas like “L’Elisir d’Amore” and “Pagliacci” are currently stored.
A unique kind of stage-prop dialysis is used to keep the blood hygienic. Following each performance, the tanks of blood are trucked back to J&M, which filters out any newly added particles of foam and dust. The blood is then purified with ultraviolet light to kill bacteria.
“We can’t use chlorine or anything like that because it would turn the water pink,” said David Feheley, the Met’s technical director. “Which is, you know, less dramatic.”
The blood creates striking tableaus — drenching the dress Evelyn Herlitzius wears as she sings the role of Kundry, a wild woman in the thrall of an evil sorcerer; and helping the audience visualize the spiritual quest taken by Parsifal (the tenor Klaus Florian Vogt). And it fits squarely into Mr. Girard’s conception of the opera.
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/NYT Art