FEAST IN A TIME OF PLAGUE

Dmitry Otyakovsky

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Screenlife opera by Caesar Cui with libretto based on Alexander Pushkin's writing.

In May 2020, the world's first screenlife opera premiered. This genre uses screen video capture as the main expressive means: viewer sees users' messages and video chats, social network profiles.

Soloists from Italy, Germany, France and Russia took part in the online performance which was shot remotely in the time of quarantine restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

All funds raised during the premiere were transferred to the funds for the support of the actors affected by the closure of theaters and the cancellation of festivals around the world.

ONLINE PERFORMANCE IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO PUT TOGETHER A PERFECT INTERNATIONAL CAST EVEN UNDER POST-EPIDEMIOLOGICAL CONDITIONS

DMITRY OTYAKOVSKY

Director, Curator of the Digital Opera Research Laboratory

How did you come up with this idea?

In March 2020, I was in Nuremberg working as Dmitry Bertman's assistant director on the production of the "The Demon" opera by Anton Rubinstein. Unexpected cancellation of the premiere and theater being placed under quarantine caught us and the actors by surprise, but there remained a desire to continue working with this amazing international cast online. We chose Caesar Cui's rarely performed opera "A Feast during the Plague" because its plot was as relevant as ever: a group of characters arranging an online feast being imprisoned in their apartments on lockdown.

What was the most difficult thing in your project?

Technology imperfection became an unexpected difficulty. The fact is that all video communication applications are subject to a delay, which is barely noticeable when talking but critical when it comes to shared music-making online. Therefore, we recorded piano in advance and then shot a video of a conductor directing all the entrances and upbeats as if the performers were on stage. It made our work much easier.

Why do we need projects like yours? What is their value to people?

Coronavirus restrictions made it hard for opera singers: many of the famous performers are not officially on the staff of any theater and work as freelancers, constantly moving from one production to another. When all the theaters suddenly closed, these people were left unable to earn money. But projects like ours show a possible way to create opera performances online. Moreover, online performance is an opportunity to put together a perfect international cast even under post-epidemiological conditions avoiding transportation costs.

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