OC Stories—Mike Griebl Scenic Supervisor
By: Angelica DiIorio
Neither snow nor rain nor heat has kept Scenic Supervisor Mike Griebl from ensuring the sets of Rigoletto are ready for opening night. In a career spanning more than twenty years, Mr. Griebl has supervised the construction and strike of these Rigoletto sets over thirty times. His work has taken him to different cities, and he has been through many adventures along the way.
HOW DID MR. GRIEBL GET INVOLVED WITH THE RIGOLETTO SETS?
Mr. Griebl first worked on this Rigoletto set in February of 1995 in the freezing cold of Regina, Saskatchewan. Later, New Orleans Opera purchased the sets, and Mr. Griebl was invited to supervise their construction and deconstruction. One project turned into another and, eventually, Mr. Griebl was sent to every opera house that rented the sets, supervising their unloading and reloading. He comments, “It’s something I never counted on doing. I figured I would set it up a couple of times, but it has not gone that route…I know every piece of the set. It is like my own. I have done it so often, and it’s been fun.” It is very unusual for a scenic supervisor to stay with the same sets for quite as long as Mr. Griebl. Usually, sets will be managed by someone at the opera house where they are being rented as opposed to bringing in a specialist. However, Mr. Griebl is the exception. He has knowledge about these sets and stories connected to them unmatched by others in a similar position.
CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS OF THE SETS
As the main supervisor of the Rigoletto sets, Mr. Griebl has seen several triumphs and challenges in their lifespan. Even though the sets were housed in Louisiana in the summer of 2005, they survived Hurricane Katrina and, shortly thereafter, appeared in a production with Chattanooga Symphony & Opera. Additionally, the sets were being shipped back to New Orleans from Santo Domingo when they got caught in another hurricane. Two natural disasters later and these Rigoletto sets are still resilient!
Mr. Griebl himself has shown an incredible amount of resiliency. He ensured the safety of set pieces through everything from rain to extreme heat. He even navigated a language barrier as an English speaker with a Spanish-speaking crew in Santo Domingo. Over the years, new technologies have also made putting up the sets a little easier. Mr. Griebl explains, the Rigoletto set can reach a height of almost twenty-three feet and, for the longest time, the crew’s only tools were ladders. Motors have made this setup process easier to carry and move pieces into place, but it still takes about twelve hours to complete.
THE RIGOLETTO SETS COME INTO THE LIGHT
The Rigoletto sets and Mr. Griebl have certainly been through a lot together over the years. It’s fair to say Mr. Griebl has an intimate knowledge of each piece. In terms of what makes this set special, he shares, “When you first look at [the sets], the wood looks beat up and old. The minute you put light on it, it has a haunting quality. It is a dimly lit show, but once it gets under light, people are amazed at what this thing looks like. Sets aren’t built like this anymore. Many sets now are very sterile, but this one has a lot of character.”
We thank Mr. Griebl for coming to Colorado to continue his work as the caretaker of these Rigoletto sets. We hope you enjoy the moment the curtain rises and you can see this incredible set in the light!
What would you like to learn about opera scenery? Did you know many opera companies rent the scenery? Let us know what other questions you have about this process in the comments below!