La Boheme strikes a chord in Cardiff

June 2012

Welsh National Opera’s new production of La Boheme, featuring projections designed by myself for Knifedge, has opened to critical acclaim at the Cardiff Milleunium Centre. The opening signifies another type of first for WNO, however, with the unveiling of their newly acquired projection systems.

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The Telegraph ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“Parisian landscapes and images of night skies and snowfalls are projected on to gauzy scrims, with minimal props and costuming suggesting the fin de siècle era during which Puccini composed the opera.”

The Times  ★ ★ ★ ★

“Stephen Brimson Lewis’s designs, Tim Mitchell’s lighting and Nina Dunn’s projections cleverly mesh to depict dawns and sunsets over a skyline chalked with a thousand houses.”

Opera Britannica ★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2★
“The zippy use of projection design creates a graphic designed modernism, and echoes the swooping kaleidoscopic cinematography of Baz Luhrmann’s musical film, Moulin Rouge.”

The Guardian ★ ★ ★ ★

The Stage: “beautifully contemporary visual spectacle[…]cinematic sets incorporating multimedia to great effect”

Along with visual engineer, Sam Hunt, I spent the past year consulting with WNO to devise and commission the new projection system.  The brief made it clear that the new system would need to be purchased on a finite investment budget, be suitable for touring shows and be, as far as possible, future-proofed.

Whilst advising on the new rig, Dunn has also been working with La Bohème director, Annabel Arden, and designer, Stephen Brimson-Lewis to design projections for Puccini’s spectacular opera, which will be the first production to showcase the system.

Billed as “the greatest love story ever sung” and set in Edwardian Paris, this production of La Boheme demands sensitive projection designs that support the narrative and embellish the elegant simplicity of the set. Dunn worked closely with lighting designer, Tim Mitchell, during technical rehearsals to ensure that the projections work with the performance to enhance the audience experience.

From a technical perspective the new rig consists of 3 Panasonic PT-DW730 7,000 Lumen projectors with a range of lenses and a Catalyst rack with built-in backup system. Knifedge has also provided training, alongside chosen suppliers SSS and SNP, to ensure that the lighting crew will be able to use the system with confidence both at their home at the Wales Millennium Centre as well as on the 12 month tour.

This puts WNO at the forefront of a new flourishing era of digitally aided production design.  As an agency, our focus is always to enhance a production, not to fragment it with projections that create a barrier between narratives, lighting and set design.

The new versatile projection system means that WNO can work with video projections in mind from the outset of a project without adding equipment costs to the touring production budget.  This alongside the training makes it feel like we’re handing the company a digital paintbrush, which can be used to add a whole new dimension to the already well-conceived and highly acclaimed productions.

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