In October 2011, I was Art Director for performances of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, directed by Jessie Fraser and performed by Opera Belcanto. The two operas are often performed together as a double bill since they’re both fairly short and are thematic and stylistically similar.
I created a digital backdrop in the form of a fullscreen Flash application that could be controlled by the theatre staff. Hitting different shortcut keys would initiate different sequences of the backdrop which were timed to match the performance.
Both operas featured a timelapse video of the sky, captured from my balconey, to evoke the passage of time.
During the introduction of Cavalleria Rusticana, elements of the small Sicilian town, Vizzini, fade in to establish the location. The town was created by Photoshopping elements from a variety of sources. Some of the elements were taken from rights-cleared photos of the real town Vizzini. Additional details were taken from my own photography, such as a stone fence photographed at Riverdale Farm; it’s a Toronto/ Vizzini mashup.
At one point during the Cavalleria Rusticana, there is an Easter procession. To fill out the number of performers, I created a sequence featuring silhouettes of procession participants, triggered by shortcut key.
To match the content of the opera, a wine shop and church were included as prominent elements in the backdrop. Additionally, a British style vardo (gypsy wagon) is parked behind the wine shop; I added the vardo to connect the two operas. It’s implied that the performers were performing in Vizzini before appearing in Pagliacci. At the risk of spoilers, both operas feature murder following affairs; I was amused with the idea that murderous rage was like a disease that the Pagliacci characters brought with them from Vizzini. I included the original poster for Pagliacci on the wine shop wall in my depiction of Vizzini and again in Pagliacci.
To transition between the two operas, I gradually faded out elements of Vizzini and played the sky timelapse quickly in reverse to return to day.
Pagliacci was set in the small town of Taormina where travelling performers arrive to entertain the town. I decided that the performers would set camp and perform in a secluded or less travelled area on the outskirts of town, similar to the locations that circuses always seem to be located. The covered area on the left and brick wall are both from the pig pen at Riverdale Farm.
A shortcut key was added to darken the backdrop to create a more intimate scene.
During the curtain call, the backdrop fades out to bring the audience back to reality. I’m proudly receiving my adulation on the very far left.