A new form of opera emerged recently. For this year’s production of the Barber of Seville, the Florida Grand Opera company blazed new territory by using an animated digital screen backdrop for their production, adding depth, movement, and cinematic immersion to classic opera. This animated digital backdrop added evolving background environments replete with changes in location, light, and weather. It also added shadow characters that interacted with the live actors on stage, from groups of musicians and soldiers to a lone alley cat. Beyond these dimensions, the animated background also appeared to add greater symbolic and thematic depth to the relatively simple story of the Barber of Seville. Then, in the final moments of the opera, something even more wondrous occurred. The actors climbed up the steps of the central set piece and in the digital background, giant animated wings unfolded and began to flap. The juxtaposition between the animated backdrop and the live action actors and set pieces created the effect of flying to the heavens. The audience let out a collective gasp and for a few brief moments the stage was transcended and the audience, actors, and set pieces soared.
This convergence of opera with digital cinematic elements created a new multi-dimensional form of entertainment that could be called “trans-opera.” The birth of this new opera-cinematic hybrid is the work of French Director Renaud Doucet and Canadian Production Designer Andre Barbe, with the technical help of Miami’s Lava Studios. The impetus for the birth of this new approach came out of current financial constraints, and from these limits an artistic phoenix has risen. I feel honored to have personally witnessed this event.