Enemies, A Love Story
Video equipment rental company Pete’s Big TVs provided Florida’s Palm Beach Opera and its scenic designer with their first LED video wall experience. It was also the world premiere for the opera’s show, Enemies, A Love Story, held Feb. 20-22 at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.
Pete’s Big TVs’ tech Nick Faubion worked with the 259 GTek 15mm tiles, creating a 600 square foot video wall at 37 tiles wide by 7 tiles high. An MBox media server distributed the content which included scenic video clips and opera text - though the show was sung in English. Said Faubion, “It was mostly stills that they had wipe or zoom in or out for effects.”
Based on the book by Isaac Bashevis Singer, the opera is described as a light-hearted but dark comedy about a Holocaust survivor in 1948 post World War II. The character presumes his wife is dead, and with his move to New York City he marries again and takes a mistress, only to have his first wife show up very live on his doorstep.
New York-based scenic designer Allen Moyer said it was the first time an LED video wall was used at the Palm Beach Opera. Though he has used video projections in his career as a Broadway show, dance, theatre and opera designer, it was also his first time to use an LED screen, and he was happy to report a successful experience with it.
He described the set using the LED video wall. “From the early part of the process of designing the scenery, a large projection surface was included, hanging over three realistically sized apartment 7 units. The apartments represented the major locations of the opera and were used individually on the stage or eventually all at the same time as events in the plot became more complicated.”
The screen was always a long and low proportion, which he favors. “It gives us an almost instant abstraction with the images and feels more stylish than a video version of a back drop. I was keen on exploring the LED version rather than a standard front projection because I wanted it to be able to disappear just in case we didn't want to use video all of the time.”
As it turned out, Moyer said there was always an image on the screen, but he was glad to have the flexibility. With a limited tech period and a “complicated” opera with 25 scenes, he said, “It seemed that the LED would simply be easier to plan ahead with and that time wouldn't be taken up with projectors. Also, the theater did not have good positions available to even hang the projectors if we had gone that route. The LED screen was so beautifully crisp and we never had to worry about the level of stage light washing the images out.”
Moyer worked with lighting designer Aaron Black and content creator Greg Emetaz. “The content was initially location based and was meant to ground us and help know where we were in the story,” Moyer explained. “The opera takes place in New York City in the late 1940s. Then there were moments that the images evolved into more psychological and emotional reactions to the sung text.
“Many of the scenes involved the lead character traveling in the New York Subway System from his home in Coney Island all the way to his mistress in the Bronx along with stops in between. “The video work was also essential to help us with all of the transitions since there were so many scenes,” he said. “I thought it was very successful.”