How do you perform an opera in a pandemic? As with any performing arts entity, that was the question facing The Glenn Gould School at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada. They were forced to pivot and re-think their entire strategy for staging a performance. Their fall opera, for example, turned into a double-bill of two shorter operas that were filmed on stage for a streaming audience. Compared to other ZOOM-based presentations, this approach included costumes, sets, and lighting. Lighting Designer and Rosco Ambassador Noah Feaver describes below how lightboxes illuminated with RoscoLED® Tape added color and character into their pandemic stage design.
The original plan for the fall production was to actually stage an opera and film it “live.” The production team quickly realized how many moving parts were involved in shooting a live performance. Instead, they changed their plans and shot Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins and William Bolcom’s Lucrezia in short, out of sequence scenes that they could edit together afterward. This process was simpler, it kept their performers and crew-members safer by minimizing the number of people in the space at one time, and it also provided them with the ability to stage each scene more effectively for the camera.
Another safety measure that was implemented into their pandemic stage design involved large, L-shaped, Plexiglas structures that were fabricated for the production. The structures were designed so that crewmembers could walk them on stage to create whatever size box was needed to surround the performers. This allowed the cast to remove their masks so that they could safely sing and emote uninhibited.
Behind the boxed-in performers were five repositionable projection surfaces that were faced in a semi-translucent, Tyvek material. During the design discussions, Set Designer Anna Treusch and LD Noah Feaver came up with the idea of backlighting the Tyvek to create color-changing lightboxes behind the performers. “We discovered that the texture of the Tyvek became visible when it was backlit, which added depth to the front projections on it,” reported Feaver. “So, we began looking for an LED tape solution that was flicker-free on camera and that had a very good dimming curve on the low end. The RoscoLED Tape VariColor: RGB+CW and its corresponding VariColor Control Boxes were perfectly flicker-free without any adjustments, and the dimming curve was smooth all the way from 100%-0.”
Treusch added some trim to the vertical flats so that Feaver could install the strips of RoscoLED Tape behind the Tyvek fascia. “The RoscoLED Tape seemed like the perfect solution to illuminate the lightboxes,” Feaver recalled. “It gave us the ability to backlight the Tyvek without needing too much space or too much power. Power was an issue, as we only had five 15A circuits to power everything – lights, cameras, projectors, etc.” Noah also shared how easy It was to power & cable the RoscoLED Tape using the RoscoLED Control Boxes. “There was no soldering or terminal screwing required. We had a limited amount of time and crew to install the RoscoLED Tape into the scenery, so its locking connectors and cables were of great benefit.”
Feaver recalled how much he appreciated the color-quality of the VariColor RoscoLED Tape, especially noting how easy it was to match the other LED fixtures he had in the lighting plot. Noah also shared how the lightboxes became a visual storytelling tool for the production. “By turning segments of the RoscoLED Tape on & off and manipulating its colors, we essentially had another character to play with on stage.”
The Production was filmed between November 2nd – 7th, 2020 and the stream debuted on January 8th, 2021. You can watch the entire stream above if you’d like to see the performance, and to see how Treusch and Feaver’s RoscoLED Tape lightboxes worked on stage.
Noah Feaver is a Dora Award-nominated lighting designer, and member of the Associated Designers of Canada. He works frequently in Dance and Opera, and has designed for Edmonton Opera, Human Body Expression, Holla Jazz, Citadel+Compagnie, Zata Omm, Against the Grain Theatre, and Rock Bottom Movement. If you would like to see more of Noah’s work, visit his website: noahfeaver.com.
Director: Amanda Smith
Music Director: Peter Tiefenbach
Set Designer & Costume Consultant: Anna Treusch
Projection Designer: Andrew Scriver