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Debate: What do you think of the use of video projections in opera and ballet?

Does use of digital media in a theatre enhance the experience, or detract from it?

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

11 February 2014 at 12.47pm | 20 Comments

Over the past few years, opera and ballet have embraced video projection as a design element. The Royal Ballet's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, ENO's Satyagraha and Glyndebourne's The Turn of the Screw are just some of the productions across both art forms that have incorporated the technology.

Video is a key element of the design of Kasper Holten's Royal Opera production of Don Giovanni. The director has seen a shift in perception from inside the industry:

'It's a definite change, but I embrace it because I love collaborating,' he told the Guardian, 'I love seeing a production and wondering if a particular idea was mine or someone else's. The thing that's most exciting for me is finding Luke [Halls, the production's video designer], who's not just a tech nerd, but he's got an artistic language'

Let us know what you think using the comments field below:

What do you think of the use of video projections in opera and ballet? Have you enjoyed their use in productions or found them distracting?

A selection of your comments from Twitter:

This article has 20 comments

  1. I saw this in rehearsal and felt that the projections were very attractive but left the actual performance quite static.. At times I was grateful for the projection as there wasn't anything else on stage going on. I think that projections in general need to be well balanced so as not to take over from the staging and directing.

  2. Mike Crooks responded on 11 February 2014 at 6:21pm Reply

    The Picture of the production looks Brilliant so why not. It has to of course not overpower the production, but yes I'm all for it.

  3. Tony Boyd-Williams responded on 11 February 2014 at 6:42pm Reply

    My experience is that video projections can be spectacular, magical, exciting and most effective. My wife and I now eagerly await tomorrow's live screening of Don Giovanni.

  4. Janet Leake responded on 11 February 2014 at 8:29pm Reply

    I saw Don Giovanni rehearsal. Found the kaleidoscopic effect during champagne aria distracting. The graffiti of all his conquests was 'clever'. Basically, am not so keen on gimmicks; the music and drama don't need it.

  5. I have seen several shows where projection and video has been used and they were all (touch wood) incredible - however I think what made the incredible is the dancing - theatrics - staging and acting was the key focus every time - with the projection - video adding to the visual effect and enhancing what were already brilliant pieces. I think the key therefore is that it should always be like that and that while the industry embraces the modern technology it only uses it to enhance rather than create a performance

  6. DaveM responded on 12 February 2014 at 11:43am Reply

    when used to enhance, can be great. However, if you need a scrim over the front of the stage for the whole performance in order to show them for a few mins - nasty!

  7. Stefan Van Goethem responded on 12 February 2014 at 11:22pm Reply

    I just returned from the opera in the local cinema and found it amazing how the decor could change with a single projection. However the attention is drawn away from the music. Here I enjoyed iT very much but sometimes lost the focus for the music. I think this is a.very subjective opinion and everybody Will have to decide for themselves wether or not. iT adds to the experience. Anyway: a fantastic show tonight.

  8. Chris responded on 12 February 2014 at 11:28pm Reply

    Have just seen the simulcast.
    Great ideas behind the staging and brilliant technical work to bring it to fruition, but I do wish someone had stepped it back from the full blown idea.
    I think the best staging is when the effects are realised on reflection. In this case the staging was like an addition to the story - what would happen next?

  9. Ilaria Santicchia responded on 13 February 2014 at 12:17am Reply

    In my opinion digital effects work at their own best in plays which need characters' psycological universe to be shown as well as external features. I have just enjoyed visual effects projected on Don Giovanni's stage, and I found the choice to match writings, lines and colours with the main character's mood or believings astonishing. The deep dark at the end of the play, in partcular, underlines don Giovanni's definitive lack of his inner universe: enchanting.

  10. Just watched the live screening. Thought the video projection was excellent. Has Luke Halls seen a book on Cassanova illustrated by Brody Neuenschwander?

  11. Ron Hastings responded on 13 February 2014 at 12:54am Reply

    The projections made this for me. Particularly useful exploring the plot from a different viewpoint allowing imagery that helps demonstrate the point that the director is making with the view from the inside of the characters head. More power to their elbow and of course it works brilliantly for the cinematic viewer.

  12. Mike M responded on 13 February 2014 at 11:12am Reply

    I saw this performance in Newcastle U Lyme last night. I thought it was excellent, although I did have to close my eyes with some of the projections as they made me dizzy, this is probably the close up in cinema.
    If used to enhance staging - then fine, but to replace it - then no. Did anyone Opera North's Faust - disaster! Hope the ROH Faust is much better.

  13. Peter Erdos responded on 14 February 2014 at 12:28pm Reply

    It was ok for Alice in wonderland, but certainly NOT for Don Giovanni or Nabucco

  14. Diego Vilarino responded on 16 February 2014 at 6:47pm Reply

    Thanks for introducing opera 2.0.
    I've been watching opera for 15 years now and it opened my mind to a new experience. It makes opera more attractive, may bring younger audiences, gives new possibilities to creative professionals, and will probably take costs down.
    I can only ask for more.

  15. Paul responded on 19 February 2014 at 7:45am Reply

    An opera with wit and the opportunity to be sexy, sadly this production had neither. A flat pack production. Was looking forward to see how projection was used and while ok didn't really explore how characters could have merged into the scenery using it. Felt that focus on this left no time to inject any life into the acting which I felt was pretty inert.

  16. It really depends on the type of production. It would certainly be appropriate for some but overall I definitely prefer traditional opera and ballet. Having said that some modern productions may benefit from this.

  17. It can be really beautiful, but equally it can detract. It comes down to what the production is really. Surely no one could say it should always, or never, be used?

  18. Leslie responded on 12 May 2015 at 8:51pm Reply

    The video use in the Met’s Ring... worked in many of the situations and not in others. When it worked, it was great.

    Two Boys, at the beginning of last season was done with video projections. It was fabulous.

    It’s a tool. When used well, I see nothing wrong. When it’s used for it’s own sake, just because it’s there, it’s difficult to see the reason.

  19. I saw it used in some of the Met’s Ring... very well. Other times, just eh.

    In Two Boys, it was just perfect. Used well, and the reason never questioned.

  20. Steve responded on 12 May 2015 at 11:35pm Reply

    Don Giovanni set was fantastic - very effective, and technically brilliant. It added to the story and to the whole atmosphere in a positive way. But I agree with an earlier comment, projection must be used to enhance the set, not replace it.

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