On Friday, “La Bohème” will open the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s latest season, as the Puccini opera has nearly every other year since 1898. But this season, the set may upstage the show, thanks to the incorporation of priceless 19th century art.
Throughout the performance, Van Goghs, Renoirs, Manets, and more will be projected in high resolution on the set's backdrop, replacing the standard painted canvas. An onstage LCD screen made to look like a painter’s easel will feature them as well.
The 30 or so masterpieces were borrowed for the experiment from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Barnes Foundation, and transferred into digital Quicktime format. In a phone call with the Huffington Post, David Devan, the Opera's General Director, downplayed the "high-tech" aspect of the design, saying whatever technology was harnessed was done so primarily to "integrate these timeless masterpieces into a largely traditional set.”
Devan also said viewers shouldn't expect a "curatorial exposition," but instead, a view into "the essence of what was happening in that part of Paris around that time."
In one instance, a character places sunflowers in a vase, while simultaneously, Van Gogh's famous Sunflowers emerges on the electronic easel behind as a black and white sketch. As the storyline progresses, the painting also evolves, moving from the easel to the backdrop, all the while becoming as yellow as the original painting.
At Monday’s orchestra dress rehearsal, the new set drew "ecstatic" reactions, according to Devan.
What do you think readers? Do you like your opera served solo, or are you intrigued by this high art pairing?
CLICK through the slideshow below for a selection of the paintings reworked for "La Bohème":
"La Bohème" runs for five performances at The Academy of Music, September 28 - October 7. Catch a free screening at Independence Mall on October 6th. Directed by Davide Livermore starring Norah Amsellem, Bryan Hymel, Troy Cook, and Leah Partridge. Musical director by Corrado Rovaris. Find more information and buy tickets here.