Anyone who has taken part in a Backstage Tour may know that Glimmerglass audiences aren’t the only patrons to enjoy the scenic and costume work done here in Cooperstown. We also have a thriving production rental program. National and international opera companies reach out to us to rent our scenery, props, costumes, and even titles.

When a company rents scenery from us, our Technical Director, Ross Rundell, or another member of the Production team travels with the show to help install and strike (disassemble) the show. Our Costume Director, Lynne Hinman, does the same for costume rentals.

Glimmerglass Technical Director, Ross Rundell, in his office. You’ll notice in the background his many photos of opera houses worldwide.

Regarding rentals, Ross has a unique tradition: he takes a photo of the opera house to commemorate the trip and adds it to his collection on the walls of his office. If you ever get the chance to visit his office, you’ll get to see the variety of places Glimmerglass sets have been! Since Ross started this tradition (about 10 years ago), he has taken over 40 productions to 25 different theaters in the US, France, Netherlands, and Italy!


Glimmerglass does roughly four to seven rentals a year. To make those rentals a success, we design and build each show to break down into parts that can fit into 53’ semi-trailers or, in the case of international rentals, 40’ shipping containers. At any given time, our warehouse contains 25 to 30 shows. Deciding what shows to keep depends on a variety of factors, including how many inquiries a show has had, how many trucks it takes to transport, how many theaters can fit the show, how much room it takes to store, how popular the show is, what the current trends are, etc. Rentals are a great way to bring in additional revenue with something we already own and share Glimmerglass’s art with a broader base than only those who can make the trip to Cooperstown.

Here’s Ross with his first update! Read below for the first installment of On the Road with Ross, a firsthand account of the unique challenges and stories from the Glimmerglass rental sphere.

“fly-Heavy” fun – The Barber of Seville

Hi, y’all. Just a few weeks ago, since the beginning of 2024, our rental schedule has been all about two of our smaller rental packages. Barber of Seville went to North Carolina Opera (NCO) for two performances at the end of January. If you were fortunate enough to see Barber when Glimmerglass last did it in 2018, you might remember that the scenery for the show is very “fly heavy.”

“Fly heavy” is a term we often use when a show has multiple elements that move vertically in and out of view during the show. Often, fly-heavy shows require two to four people on the fly rail to bring all the elements in and out during the performance. One of the challenges of sending the scenery to NCO was that they have a double purchase fly system instead of a single purchase fly system. Both operate similarly during the show, but loading them is very different. A single purchase fly system uses a series of lines running from a batten (the pipe scenery attaches to) to an arbor (a carriage designed to secure and hold weight). Then, a rope runs from the top of an arbor to a wheel, down past the arbor to another wheel, and back up to the bottom arbor, creating a closed loop.

Graphic depiction of a single line set and the parts of a counterweight system. (A) Hoisting cables, (B) Turnbuckles, (C) Purchase line, (D) Arbor rod, (E) Spreader plates, (F) Cut steel counterweight, (G) Rope stop/lock (brake)/Lock rail, (H) Locking safety ring, (I) Tension sheave (block).

In single-purchase systems, the weight on the arbor has to equal the weight on the batten, which allows a person on the floor to pull the rope up and down to make the scenery go up and down. The arbor can’t go to the ground in a double purchase system, so theaters rig them with a mechanical advantage that requires the weight on the arbor to be twice that of the weight on the batten, and the system is operated from above the floor. That means instead of the 3,140 lbs of weight to make the show fly, we needed 6,280 lbs of weight! That meant extra thought and attention had to be given to hanging the fourteen flying units in the show. That said, since Barber was mostly flying units with only a few floor elements, the show could still be loaded within ten hours. Not bad, considering most shows usually take 12 to 36 hours to install.

We also sent out one of our youth operas, Odyssey. Odyssey went to Detroit Opera and will be performed at the end of April. For full production rentals, we often send props and costumes on an earlier shipment and then the scenery later. This is because the props are often wanted for rehearsals, and the costumes must be resized to fit a new cast. But in the case of Odyssey being a small production, we sent everything early in one 53’ trailer. This saves time on our end, and the renter saves money. Win-win.

Be sure to check back in March to hear about The Sound of Music loading into Houston Grand Opera!

2 Thoughts on “A Brand New Blog: On the Road With Ross”

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  1. How interesting! I’ll keep reading this blog. Always like backstage tidbits, how the show is put on. Would love to hear from costumers as well.

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