Lift the curtains!

23 March 2021
Reimagining opera during a global pandemic
In response to COVID effectively shutting down live performance, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music was forced to rethink how opera in a time of a global pandemic could look. They took a traditionally staged opera, Cendrillon, and produced it as an opera film.

Sydney Conservatorium of Music will showcase their innovation and creativity to worldwide audiences when they present an operatic film, Cendrillon on 26 March. Cendrillon is the French operatic version of the Cinderella fairytale written by the brothers Grimm.

In normal times, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music produces live opera performances but when COVID-19 pulled the curtains down on live performances, a different approach was needed.

Head of School and Dean, Professor Anna Reid and Artistic Planning Manager, Scott Ryan were determined to provide students with a meaningful and rewarding performance experience, giving acclaimed opera and theatre director, Kate Gaul the challenge to transform a traditionally staged opera, Cendrillon (Cinderella) into a cinematic experience.

“The production of Cendrillon proved to be an incredibly rewarding and new experience for our students, allowing us to showcase our rich pool of talent and apply innovative educational outcomes,” said Mr Ryan.

“What a delight to share the remarkable talents and resilience of these young artists in the midst of a pandemic.  Collectively they demonstrate the kind of skill, toughness and dedication to their art that guarantees opera of the future is in safe hands,” said Ms Gaul.

Although filmed opera is not new, it is rarely undertaken by conservatoriums. The skills called upon to transform the opera into film provided an educational vehicle for the opera students, who learnt a different performance technique.

Similar to a traditional opera, students staged rehearsals and music calls. However, sound recording and filming sessions marked a radical departure from traditional production and rehearsels. Students experienced working within a recording studio, developed new vocal skills, and the valuable art of working to camera.

Opera productions are enormous in the scale of people involved, and the film version was an even bigger undertaking. Unlike standard opera productions where one set is used,  the Con constructed two full sets for the film. “Being a film, we couldn’t rely on the magic of imagination to create a ball room or Cinderella’s house,” said Ryan. The entire postgraduate opera school was involved, along with the AV team and a production team from NIDA, who assisted lighting designers and stage managers.

“This outstanding production of Cendrillon is a testament to the talent, determination and resilience of our students in a time of crisis, and we are incredibly proud,” said Dr Anna Reid.

“It provided Con students with a unique opportunity to experience their chosen industry in a new format, under the guidance of acclaimed staff and mentors including NIDA. We are looking forward to continuing collaborations with NIDA with a main stage production this year.”

FILM SCREENING Saturday 27 March 2:00pm and 5:00pm


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