The massive sets that used to fill the amphitheater's vast stage have been replaced with dynamic, 3D images broadcasting on large LED screens. These images recreate a Sicilian village and Fellini-esque film set.
Stagehands had to follow the rules of distance, so they could only move sets in the small backstage area in the Roman-era amphitheater. This set the stage for a new version of the Verona Arena Opera Festival.
This season, the Arena's technology will be replacing the sets. These sets are large enough to fill the huge stage and engage audience members who may not be able to reach the top seats.
Cecilia Gasdia, Arena's general manger, stated that "we understood last year in Nov that we needed another plan in the event that we couldn’t use the large sets." "The Verona Arena has a history of big shows. It is a little pharaonic and has great artistic quality."
Stefano Trespidi, deputy creative director, tapped technical wizards from DWOK (an Italian company specializing on advanced video design). This company helped create La Scala’s all-virtual 2020 season premiere and created virtual sets for a Sydney opera production of "Aida".
Trespidi stated, "They are artists as well as technicians simultaneously. That is difficult." "This is a great invention; innovations take time to take root. We don't know where the process we started today will lead us. It will certainly take us forward."
Friday's season-opening premiere featured a double-bill featuring Pietro Mascagni’s "Cavalleria rusticana” and Ruggiero Lencavallo’s "Pagliacci," which was originally planned for 2020 but was not staged due to limitations that restricted performances to concerts. The Arena's cavernous workshop is still unfinished, and the wooden sets from last year's "Cavalleria," which were left behind for a possible future edition, are not finished.
On 400m2 of LED screens, a Sicilian village was constructed. It featured projections of a hillside and a facade of a church, as well as craggy buildings with three-dimensional depth. The scene was dynamically created by moving clouds, and singers and actors moved along a physical staircase. A foreground was filled with tables and chairs that formed a central piazza.
The nostalgic staged "Cavalleria rusticana", was set in black, white, and gray. However, the cast of "Pagliacci" were dressed in bright technicolor costumes against a less formal backdrop, inspired by a Fellini movie set. This highlighted the intersection of theater and real life in the opera.
Cameo imagery is also included from the Italian museums of each of the five new operas.
Yusif Eyvazof (tenor) said that they found a wonderful solution that works well. He is currently singing the role Canio/Pagliaccio. It is so beautiful that it is hard to believe that this is not a real show. The audience can actually see a live show and not just a concert.
Eyvazof stated that the screens have an additional benefit: "It's very comfortable for the vocal chords." It's a wall that provides acoustic support. This is important because we sing outside.
The Arena can now hold 6,000 people, as opposed to the 13,500 guests that it could accommodate before the pandemic. The two-meter separation between orchestra musicians and the chorus in the Arena seating is like a Greek chorus. Non-singing cast members are required to wear masks if the stage gets crowded.
Many people in the crowd enjoyed the live theatre experience. The new technology was an added bonus.
Guia Veronese, an Arena regular whose 8-year old son sang in the Pagliacci boys choir, said, "Even though it is used to the large sets of the Arena. It is still very beautiful." It almost seems real at times."