Salome’s Two Worlds Projected

LA Opera first presented its provocative production of Salome during its inaugural season in 1986. That iconic production featured a backdrop of hand painted, psychedelic projections envisioned by designer John Bury. Salome returns to LA Opera this month and features new projections that build upon Bury’s original designs and showcase the title character’s mental state throughout the opera.

Bury’s original projections (see below) were abstract and textural, containing a dark color scheme (reds, blues, and purples). Some projections feature shapes that look like bubbles or blood cells, while others create patterns using horizontal lines.

A still from John Bury's original projections

A still from John Bury’s original projections

Updated since their original use, the new projections are no longer hand painted. Projection Designer Alisa Lapidus digitized Bury’s projections and used them as the base for the new projections (which are both digital and animated). These new projections reflect director David Paul’s emphasis on Salome’s journey between two worlds – the one she lives in and the one in her head.

A still from the new projections for Salome

A still from the new projections for Salome

The image above is an example of the new projections representing the real world of the opera, (including a projected moon that replaces a mechanical one from the original production). While this image showcases the real world, it still has an air of mystery that makes it jive with the abstract projections representing Salome’s mental state (see below).

A still from the new projections for Salome

A still from the new projections for Salome

A still from the new projections for Salome

A still from the new projections for Salome

This is where the new projections get a little into Salome’s head.

Whenever Salome’s mental state is explored the textures in the projections evolve into shapes that look like a dark-colored pulsing brain. It’s a visceral representation of Salome’s mind, so intense that Lapidus even gave the projection files names that sound like heavy metal bands (“Seizure with Texture” and “Execution with Blood Moon”) that describe the patterns seen in the projections and the overall mood they create.

These new images are projected from four directions – two overhead above the stage, one in the front of the house, and one in the back of the stage. They are present throughout the show, tied to very specific points in the music. Since it’s a live performance, the projections cannot be digitally exported in a single run, like a long movie. Instead, the stage manager calls projection cues as she does with lighting, set, singers entrances, etc.

As technology has advanced, so too has the way in which a classic production is presented. This restored and enhanced Salome features projections that build upon and intensify the original designs, emphasizing Salome’s mental state and providing an entertainment that’s not to be missed.

To learn more about and purchase tickets to Salome, click here.

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