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Assessing the Use of Video in Moby Dick


by Stephen Becker 7 May 2010

Guest blogger Bart Weiss is the Artistic Director of VideoFest.
As a video guy, I am not the biggest opera fan. The singing in opera to me sounds to much like being in synagogue. But I heard that Moby Dick was magnificent and that it had video, so I went.

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Moby_1Guest blogger Bart Weiss is the Artistic Director of VideoFest.

As a video guy, I am not the biggest opera fan. The singing in opera to me sounds too much like being in synagogue. But I heard that Moby-Dick was magnificent and that it had video, so I went.

And it was … magnificent. The music, the story, the staging, the novel-to-opera translation have all been written about, and they were well great. And so was the use of video.

Stagecraft has always been a part of the spectacle of opera, and in the age of video it seems like a natural fit. As the opera opened with the overture sounding, the screen was filled with stars, which started to show lines of what seemed like constellations. And then, the first gasp moment of the evening came as those constellations transformed into an animated version of the book’s most famous ship.

Throughout the opera, there were mainly two styles of video used: the animated ship or row boat and the live action sea. Both were effective, particularly the sea, which becomes its own character. In particular, when one of the sailors is lost in the sea, the suspended singer against the wave is startling.

I was, however, somewhat disappointed in the end. I would have hoped that a new visual element would have been introduced at the climax. But, instead, we got lots of active animated boats crashing and [warning: spoiler alert] a very large close up of the big whale’s eye.

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