Nick the Extra



Name: Nick

From: Ukraine

Living: Vienna for 1 year 

Role in the opera: Extra. 

Current Opera Character: Soldier in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro”

Why do people go to the Opera? Some go simply for the music, others love the acting, many love the costumes and the sense of drama. For every opera lover there is also an escape, being lost for a few hours in a fantasy world. Nick left Ukraine at 17 years old on the first day of the war. He found himself in a new city, trying to learn a new language, orient himself, figure which way was up. He found himself working in the Opera as an Extra (non-singing Actor), it’s hard to imagine how he processes the dramatic changes in his life. So, as Freddie Mercury sang: does this feel like just fantasy or is it real life for Nick?  

Ross: So, Nick, you’re from Ukraine and you escaped the country on day one of the war. How crazy does it feel for you that you are dressing up and acting as a soldier on the stage when so many in your country have to be soldiers for real? 

Nick: Hmmm. It’s ok for me. Theatre, the opera is like a time machine, so it could take you back in time to the 20th century and it’s really great to feel it, to feel the escape.  

R: And what do you do outside of the opera? 

N: I am preparing for university, I will study from September and I am a pilot. I fly with my dad on a private jet. I was flying small planes in the United States – in Los Angeles and California

R: Wow, that sounds pretty fun! Do you love your pilot job? 

N: It’s a fantastic job, it’s like you’re sitting in an office with the view of the whole world 

R: How do you compare it? How do you compare the pilot job to this job? 

N: Oh, wow, it’s incomparable. They are two different things. For the pilot, it’s a more technical job. I also worked in Vienna as an engineer, and it was a great time and that was even more technical than a pilot job. It’s really great because we can launch rockets to space and aeroplanes can fly and yeah, this job, how is it comparable to working in the opera? its…well… I can’t compare! When I am flying I have to be serious and when I am playing a character it’s more play.

R: And why did you start this opera job? How did you get into it? 

N: Well my sister is an opera singer, and she is working here too. When I came here to Vienna, she wanted me to try it out because when I was a kid I was a good mover! My family always wanted me to try out dancing, or something cultural

R: Tell me about your craziest or funniest moment in the opera so far 

N: Well, yeah the funniest moment was when I was in the Magic Flute and we were dressed as slaves of some daemon and we were attacking some other guys and I saw the children’s faces and they were, some of them were angry at us, and some of them they were actually frightened and scared and I saw some faces, almost crying, and it was funny for me 

R: It was funny to make children cry!? 

N: No, no, not to make them cry! Just to see how they react. To see their natural reaction. They are reacting like it really is real. I know that we are playing, and they really believe that we really are slaves of the daemon. And then the funniest moment, because we were scary to them and looked angry…and then the music starts playing and we start to dance and again, I saw the children’s faces and they were so shocked that in moment we were so angry and we were the bad guys and then we became good guys who were dancing. And it was really funny to see their reactions. 

R: What are you most proud of, or what is your biggest achievement in this opera world so far?

N: I am 18 years old now and I have been working here since I was 17, and that’s really a good feeling. For most friends my age – no one is coming here to work or even to see this. For my age, it’s quite interesting to see these cultural things. My friends, they are not interested in this stuff, they don’t like opera, they don’t like the orchestra. 

R: And what is it that you do love about the opera? 

N: I love the music. I love how the instruments sound, and how the singers sing, and, I LOVE the history of this building. 

R: What does this job mean to you?

N: That I keep upgrading and developing myself in mental things, in cultural things. For me it’s really good to work here and it could give me better world in the future 

R: How important is it to you to do something that you love doing? 

N: It’s very important, because if you don’t like the stuff you do…because in this world I’ve seen a lot of people who have been working for 30 or 40 years and in the end they don’t like what they did or what they do. For me it’s really important. You need to do what you love and love what you do.

R: And I guess you’ve got a good role model right? Your dad seems to love his job.

N: Yeah, he does, and I love my jobs too 

For an 18 year old coming to terms with a new world, Nick is an impressive young man. I love that he has been willing to throw himself into a new role, to totally immerse himself in a new life. Chatting with Nick about his experience of his work challenged my paradigm of what a job is and what a job can mean. For Nick it is a unique experience, an escape from the bad news on television, and also within that a sense of genuine achievement. It may sound over the top to say it, but work can literally mean safety. For me the Opera is a fun job. For Nick it is a sanctuary. 

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