Technology creates attractive stage sets
Interactive media and vocal performance instructors collaborated this fall to use digital projection mapping and enhance the “opera stage” experience for audiences.
When freshman Emma Beers recently walked into the Victor E. Clarke Recital Hall to see this fall’s production of “Opera Scenes,” she expected to see classmates perform pieces from several different opera houses without any scenery. behind them.
Instead, she and members of the public were transported to a stained-glass cathedral in France, for an act from the opera “Manon”. They also spent time in a Scottish castle, with chimneys and dancing digital flames, while student singers graced the stage for a sample from the opera “Lucia di Lammermoor”. And Beers’ favorite: a performance of the opera “Pagliacci”, where two singers were surrounded by a huge tent as they regaled the audience with their secret love affair.
“It added so much and made me want to join this performance ASAP,” she said.
Beers and dozens of other sold-out spectators attended the first performance at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music to use new digital ‘projection mapping’ technology to create a more engaging backdrop on scene with pictures and moving pictures. In all, there were 13 different opera scenes in the production, so viewers had to shift their attention quickly and the visuals helped them do that, Beers pointed out.
“Not everyone is very familiar with these operas in different languages, so [the projections and the supertitles] really helped to convey what they sing and tell the story, ”said Beers, a major in music education. “It gives you the feeling of a fully staged opera, even in just a few minutes.”
Last summer, Clarke Recital Hall got a suite of new equipment, including high-quality projectors that helped map projections to improve performance, said Jeffrey Buchman, assistant professor of vocal performance and director for the Frost Opera Theater program.
“I saw this as a great way to transform the way we do ‘opera stages’, so that we can really put the performer in a stage world, to bring them, and the audience, into the world. location and time of the play, “he said. “And I like to connect with the community of technical and creative faculty at the University, to see how we can improve our game by working together.”
Buchman felt that colleagues at the School of Communication could help him get started. So, last summer, Buchman began working with interactive media speakers Zevensuy Rodriguez and Lorena Lopez to explore the use of projection mapping in the production of “Opera Scenes”.
For five months, faculty members met weekly to discuss ideas for different opera pieces. Lopez and Rodriguez mapped the performance space in 3D and thought about how they would project images and animation onto the stage to bring operas to life. For the two interactive media speakers, this was their first time creating projection maps, but both Lopez and Rodriguez are interested in using technology to enrich performances.
“A lot of operas are very old, but thanks to this project we had the chance to provide a modernized interpretation, which was a really interesting experience that I found fascinating,” said Rodriguez, who worked with performing artists, retailers, and filmmakers to deliver more immersive experiences with technology.
Next, the speakers put together images that would match the content of the operas and reflected on how they could embellish the “set” digitally. For example, in a scene from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”, two women are discussing a letter. So Lopez and Rodriguez worked to create an animated version of the letter that was written in the sky as the characters sang.
“The beauty of projection mapping is that you can take the architecture of a space and reuse it to make functional storytelling objects, so we decided to convert the doors to fireplaces and use speakers as chandeliers, ”Rodriguez explained.
Lopez, who started working on immersive costumes and sets in college and then professionally at the Miami Children’s Museum, said she was happy with the end product.
“It was great to be able to transform a space so quickly,” she said. “The value of the production required to create a physical setting that is often quickly tidied up is enormous, so it could be a more cost-effective way to improve the stage design. “
Professor Alan Johnson, conductor and director of the Frost Opera Theater, worked closely with the 35 student singers and Buchman to produce “Opera Scenes”. He said the performers and the public alike appreciated the digitally enhanced set.
“This is the wave of the future and for many years video projection has been integrated into the stage design of the opera,” he said. “But projection mapping using this kind of technology is pretty new, and we’re excited to add it to our opera arsenal. “
Rodriguez, Lopez and Buchman hope to build on this year’s show for more elaborate, modern scenes next year. Interactive media faculty members are also interested in delivering projection mapping throughout a classroom, so they can teach students how to produce interactive scenes in a variety of performance venues.
“The goal in this case was to present the operas, but a goal for the future might be:” How can we create a digital space where the artist or performer could interact with digital projection, to further embellish the story ? “” Said Rodriguez.