8 July 2014 at 9.06am | 18 Comments
When we are in the audience for an opera we are aware of the artists on stage and in the pit, we are hopefully caught up in the drama of the performance and pulled in by the power of the music. What is invisible – unless something goes wrong – is the team working behind the scenes to put the production on stage; managing and driving what could be described as the ‘opera machine’.
Behind the scenes, stage crew, technicians and stage managers come together with the artists in an often pressurized, always carefully coordinated, way to enable the performances and deliver the spectacular theatrical effects.
This staff is usually unseen and often unsung, but we are tremendously proud of having some of the best teams you could possibly imagine. The artists know how important they are - and we now have a way to let you glimpse this part of our world.
Our new project, The Opera Machine, offers an extraordinary multi-angled view of all that is involved: a flaming helix, trap doors and a two-ton spinning wall all feature in this performance of Act III of Wagner’s Die Walküre. In one tense moment, the Stage Manager works with colleagues to fix a crucial flaming prop for bass baritone Bryn Terfel, who sings the role of Wotan, delivering it just seconds before Bryn takes to the stage.
Decide how you would like to experience the opera: jump between cameras at will, or watch the director’s cut (featuring footage from each of the 17 cameras) all the way through. It’s possible to listen to the music alone, hear it with the backstage radio or overlay with commentary from BBC Radio 3’s Suzy Klein. You can also dig deeper by following the prompt book, used by the Deputy Stage Manager, to get a sense of what it’s like to coordinate such a large team during a performance.
Or if you want to understand even more fully why we think Antonio Pappano is the best Music Director in the world, watch him conduct the whole act through a camera in the pit capturing his every gesture and expression.
This project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Deloitte, who enabled us to film Die Walküre ahead of Deloitte Ignite 2013. We’re looking forward to seeing what The Royal Ballet have in store for Deloitte Ignite 2014 this September, which takes the theme of myth as a starting point.
Have fun with The Opera Machine – enjoy it for two minutes or play around with it for hours. I learnt several things that I didn’t know about how things work backstage watching this being filmed myself, so we think you will never be able to quite watch an opera performance again in the same way after visiting The Opera Machine.