A week before the Washington National Opera premieres Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut,” the sisters Krynicki are in the zone, adrenaline pumping yet completely calm, running the dress rehearsal at the Kennedy Center Opera House.
It’s a tag team of stage managers who have known each other their whole lives — Lynn and Jill are twins born 15 minutes apart, and Beth is their older sister, five years senior, who paved the way for their love of the drama behind the curtain. They came to the opera as children and arrived at their careers independent from one another. Between the three of them, they have more than 60 years of experience in stage management, yet the last time the sisters appeared behind the same curtain, they were kids playing supernumeraries in the Seattle Opera. That they would finally get the chance to work together as stage managers in the same time zone, that was serendipitous luck.
The eight-week rehearsal and run of “Manon Lescaut” is the first time the sisters are working together on a professional opera. While Beth and Lynn have worked at the Kennedy Center for 20 and 13 seasons respectively, Jill, 38, is the stage manager of the Madison Opera in Wisconsin. They all freelance for other opera houses during the off season, but their schedules have never aligned long enough to work together on a production.
They’re savoring the rare occurrence.
“I joked that we wouldn’t need the headsets to communicate on this show because we’d all be on the same wavelength,” said Beth Krynicki, 43, who has been the Washington National Opera’s principal stage manager for 20 years.
“Some people are surprised by all the nonverbal communication that’s happening,” Jill added.
The Krynicki dynasty, as some opera notables refer to them, is a rare find in the performance world. There are families of actors and directors who seem to pass down the theatrical gene. But three stage managers for the opera in one family of sisters? There is usually one aspiring diva in the mix. Indeed, they defy most speculative psychological theories on birth order. There’s no rebel. No sister who fell off the wagon and into volleyball or chess club. All three sisters gravitated toward the delicate dance of stage management in their youths and transformed the thankless high school hobby into professional callings.
“We grew up going to opera when other kids were watching cartoons,” said Lynn Krynicki, 38, who has been working as a stage manager at the Washington National Opera since 2000. “We loved the music and stories of the opera.”