No detail was too small in the California State University, Northridge virtual productions of Maurice Ravel’s “L’enfant et les sortilèges” and Giacomo Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi.”
That attention to artistry despite the limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic earned the opera program in CSUN’s Department of Music two first-place honors in the National Opera Association’s “Opera Production Competition,” which is designed to “encourage and reward creative, high quality opera productions at academic institutions.”
“How gratifying it is for our program to be recognized and honored in this way,” said professor Mercedes Juan Musotto, who served as music director and producer of both Gianni Schicchi by Puccini and Ravel’s “L’enfant et les sortilèges.” “I could not be prouder of all the CSUN students, faculty and staff and all who contributed to bringing both of those ground breaking productions to life.”
CSUN professor Maurice Godin, who served as director of Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi, said it was important to emphasize the mockery aesthetic while using the image of death and a raging Black Plague to set the tone for the production.
Godin said he believed it was necessary to connect these production pieces “to the distorted world that stands before us in the wake of a global pandemic amongst other worldly issues that are taking place daily.”
“Through a changed perspective and skepticism of the world that is inhabited by humans, it is rather critical to still find the joy and laughter in life,” he said.
In the production of “L’enfant et les sortilèges,” Musotto pieced together an entire mock-up orchestra using a MIDI keyboard. Logic Pro and Kontakt, two high quality orchestra sampler softwares, were her saving grace as she recorded and edited all of the works, Musotto said.
“We looked for augmented reality technologies that we could use on Zoom and discovered SnapCamera. This is a free software that can be used on Zoom to add lenses and filters to your camera,” she said.
CSUN animation students worked alongside animation professor Mark Farquhar to create designs on LensStudio, a software designed to create lenses for SnapCamera. Meanwhile, the singers tirelessly rehearsed through Zoom with the use of SnapCamera filters. Professor Hugo Vera directed the singers on Zoom, Alex Vincent, director of photography, visual effects and editor, recorded scene by scene and later edited them together with special effects.
“When COVID hit, I thought that was the end of the opera at CSUN, [since] there was no way I could imagine producing a full opera remotely,” said Musotto last year, following the premier of CSUN’s animated production of “Gianni Schicchi.” “Then, I started researching augmented-reality software that we could use as an alternative for makeup, costumes and props, in a remote way. … It has been a great tool in times of isolation, and a fantastic way of teaching ourselves to find the way to make things happen even though it seems impossible at first.”