Interactive system design, live generated images for the Opera
World Premiere - Spoleto Festival , Charleston SC
This opera blends Western and Chinese traditions in a poetic story that evokes both the stories of the Garden of Eden and the Peony Pavillion. The Opera, composed by Huang Ruo, directed and designed by Jennifer Wen Ma and with librettos by Ji Chao, follows a woman whose voice activates a world where her search for an unattainable ideal takes place.
Cokuyo, a software application I developed for this project captures the soprano’s voice and analyzes it for vocal and emotional content. This analysis is then used to create and animate light particles which interact with the singers on stage. Not only are the images created by her voice but the way the move, the choices they make, how they move. They are emotionally tied to the soprano’s emotions. These images are then passed on to Austin Switser who uses them to create the final images and animations that are projected onto the stage.
From the director:
“A multi-media installation appears and disappears on stage in a moment’s notice, at the command of the Woman’s singing. The black garden is made from hundreds of laser-cut paper sheets that are assembled in a formation that creates tension between each individual sheet when pulled apart, enabling the garden to stand erect when open and return to a neat stack when collapsed. The form and volume of the garden on stage can be lengthened or shortened at will by the demand of the drama. In this dark forest, digital characters are generated live by video projection, responding to the Woman’s singing voice in tempo, pitch, volume and nuanced emotional delivery. They become fully activated as digital actors, all the while remaining elusive. The ephemeral quality of the stage design provides a dreamlike setting for the drama, highlighting the psychological state of the Woman.”
One of the interesting things about having live generated / interactive visuals is that they are never the same. Since the fireflies react to the emotional content of the Soprano’s singing, they will always be slightly different. Here are two images taken from the same exact moment in two different performances. Unfortunately the camera was in two different positions (different venues actually) but the moment in the opera is the same one. Notice how in one the fireflies on the ground are swirling with big puffs of smoke, while in the other one they are a bit more subdued and distinct. Curiously the opposite is true about the fireflies on the screen, in one they are trying to reach the same spot while in the other one they are gently rising and falling. (Move the slider back and forth to see the two scenes)