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Magic Flute: Tech Behind-the-Scenes

This production of Magic Flute marks the first time in opera that all physical scenery has been entirely replaced with video projections. 

Magic Flute Pamina

Pamina stands on a tiny revolving door platform that pivots out of the wall that serves as a projection screen. She is harnessed and buckled into the wall.  Monostatos stands on the first level of the stage. All other scenic elements are video projections. 

Magic Flute Stage Spike Marks

Different color tapes are used for “spike” marks. These spike marks serve as a road map to indicate the position of sets and props and performers. The integration of these elements is critical in a production as intricate as this Magic Flute with nearly one thousand video animation cues. 

Magic Flute Spike Tape

The yellow “Ts” are overall placements for where the performers stand for many of the projections.  There are a number of other different colored spikes for various performer and prop placements. 

Magic Flute Video Projections

The video animation is not one complete movie that plays from beginning to end.  It is composed of layers of separate clips. All clips are stored on a powerful computer (media server) and the stage manager, while watching the visuals and following the music, “calls” these cues accordingly to a projectionist. The projectionist then pushes a “go” button which executes the cue sequences. All of this is projected through one 18,000 lumen hi-definition projector located in a booth at the back of the orchestra level seating.

The video is mixed live for every performance because every performance is different based on the musical tempi of the conductor, orchestra and singers. Thus no two productions are exactly the same. 

While Magic Flute is on stage and show-ready, Falstaff is stored in the wings until the next performance of that production. It takes three hours to completely transform the stage from one of these productions to the other, ready for curtain. 

Magic Flute with Falstaff Backstage

A Backstage Look at Day 3 of Scenery Assemble

The Tosca scenery arrived from Houston in three 53-foot trucks in thousands of small pieces. It normally takes our stage crew two or three days to assemble all of the pieces into a full stage setting. With rental or incoming productions, minor repairs often have to be made due to the stress of shipping and handling. By the end of the third day, we have begun to make these minor repairs and scenic touch-ups.

Tosca scenery LA Opera

Replica hand-carved foam sculptures were designed for this production. The sculptures are hard-coated with urethane foam and treated with scenic paint to look like stone.

Tosca Curtain LA Opera

Each act has a different silk curtain. These silk drops are weighted at the bottom with a drapery chain to keep them from fluttering around when the curtain flies in and out. Note that a small bit of drapery chain hangs below the curtain. This chain will be sewn back into the bottom of the drop. 

Tosca Scenery LA Opera

One of the final elements of the scenery to be assembled is the ceiling. The aluminum triangular trusses serve as a lightweight skeletal structure. The ceiling is attached and held in place by four batten pipes over the stage.

Tosca scenery

A scenic artist touches up the walls with gray paint custom-mixed to match the existing color. Note that the ceiling is now in place in the set.

The Flying Dutchman: Technical Preparation

Numerous puzzle pieces of scenery for our new production of The Flying Dutchman are assembled to create one cohesive and spectacular vision. 

Flying Dutchman Technical Preparation

This is an early view from the auditorium looking through to the backstage. This bridge weighs nearly 5000 pounds and is an integral and dynamic element of the scenery. The bridge “flies” in and out on cue, controlled by a computerized chain motor console.

Flying Dutchman Technical Preparation

The deck is composed of hundreds of individual pieces of structural steel. When fully assembled with its mirrored surface, the deck becomes the playing area for dozens of cast members.  

Flying Dutchman Scenery Stage Lighting

The  scenery as designed is comprised of layers of vivid imagery  that only become apparent when completed with show lighting and effects. In this image, final preparations are made for the first onstage rehearsal.

Madame Butterfly Scenery Load-in and Assemble

Madame Butterfly is a rental production new to Los Angeles. This production has come to us from San Francisco Opera via multiple 53-foot tractor trailers. 

Stagehands Unloading Madame Butterfly Scenery

On day one, the scenery is unloaded from the trucks by the Carpenter Department, who will later assemble the many pieces.

In addition to the scenic elements that arrive with a rental production, we use a combination of different soft goods from the LA Opera stock. 

carpenter hangs a stock black velour masking leg

In this photo, a carpenter hangs a stock black velour masking leg. The masking serves the purpose of finishing out the edges of the scenery to obscure the backstage architecture and the lighting fixtures. All of the rigging systems onstage can be lowered to the floor for ease of assembling.  

hardwall flats

This image of the Butterfly scenery shows some of the hardwall (wood) flats. The piece in the foreground (show portal 1) weighs 1470 pounds and is suspended on two batten pipes. 

Except for the floor, all of the Madame Butterfly scenery is rigged from a grid overhead and will "fly" in and out of view on cue.