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Blog entries tagged with technical

The Two Foscari: Fire Breather

A lot of attention has been given to the fire breather effect in our new production of The Two Foscari.

The fire breather, an experienced professional, enters the stage with a lit self-extinguishing torch. On a pre-determined musical cue he fills his mouth with liquid, then blows the liquid through the flame of the torch. 

The Two Foscari Fire Breather

The size of the fire ball is determined by the quantity of  liquid the fire breather expels. 

The Two Foscari Fire Breather

Development and testing of this effect have been taking place for months here at the LA Opera. LA Opera works closely with the Los Angeles Fire Department and acquires special permits for all open-flame effects like this. Extensive time was invested at the costume shop to optimize the fire breather’s costume.

The Two Foscari Fire Breather

At the conclusion of the effect the fire breather extinguishes the torch by releasing the “dead-man” switch on the handle of the torch. He then exits the stage, hands the torch to a union prop person and rinses his mouth. 



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.



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.


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


Thais: Tech Behind-the-Scenes

If you look closely at the Eros statuettes in Act 2 of Thais you will notice that there are actually two different Eros statuettes. One beautiful shiny Eros sits on a pedestal in the gold room in Scene 1 and the other tarnished and worn-looking Eros (a breakaway prop) gets thrown to the ground in Scene 2.

The breakaway Eros arrived with the set. The gold room Eros is an interpretative sculpture inspired by Hypnos the god of sleep and created by our Resident Lead Scenic Artist Tony Reveles. The statuettes have different appearances to signify the passage of time and the distinctly different emotions and actions of the two scenes. 

Thais Eros sculpture LA Opera Tony Reveles

Using the original Eros statuette as a guide, Tony begins by researching images and then sculpting the head from modeling clay to get a feel for the figure’s dimensions. 

Thais Eros sculpture LA Opera Tony Reveles

Detail of the finished clay model

Thais Eros sculpture LA Opera Tony Reveles

In the next step Tony takes the dimensions from the clay sculpture and free-form draws the figure onto the foam block. 

Thais Eros sculpture LA Opera Tony Reveles

He carves away at the block carefully using precise dimensions from his primary sculpt. 

Thais Eros sculpture LA Opera Tony Reveles

Tony uses precision tools to further detail his final interpretation of the sculpture.  Note the original breakaway Eros head on the right.

Thais Eros sculpture LA Opera Tony Reveles

A coating of acrylic medium is added to seal the porous material prior to the application of the final surface treatment.

Thais Eros sculpture LA Opera Tony Reveles

The figure receives a scenic treatment of aged patina and gold leaf. This is the finished Eros sculpture in the gold room Act 2 Scene1.