While the challenges of COVID-19 have disrupted many of the processes that make up arts education, we are working to make our students’ passions become reality through a mix of collaboration and innovation. This has led to a brand-new interdisciplinary arts endeavor unlike anything at CSUN – Gianni Schicchi: A Virtual Opera.
In a typical year, the Music and Theatre Departments would collaborate to present a staged opera, but with the social distancing regulations in place to keep students and faculty safe, we’ve broadened our group of collaborators to present an opera unlike anything seen before.
This virtual opera production is a collaboration between the Music, Theatre, Art, Cinema and Television Arts, and Italian departments and will be put together entirely by students. To make this vision possible, all the singers will have their audio recorded separately, and then be individually filmed in front of a green screen lip-syncing to their audio track. These separate video and audio recordings will be mixed together to bring the performers together on the digital stage. This stage, the digital and visual effects, and design items will be created and overlaid by animation students, in order to create a new world for the performers. Film and TV students will then work to edit and help craft the visual story of this production.
This is an exciting and complicated endeavor which also poses the extremely difficult task of matching the staging, lighting, and sound editing, along with developing animation and visual effects, to produce a production that is the first of its kind. We at the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication are fully committed and excited to collaborate with this undertaking but we need your help. We are graciously asking for your financial support to help deliver a quality Virtual Opera production the students, teachers, and all involved are proud of. We are at the forefront of developing a new way to teach, learn, and grow without letting challenges of life hold us back. What a great lesson and example we are creating – will you join us in our efforts?
Your generosity will help cover the additional software and recording and editing equipment needed to produce this heavily digital process, the use of spaces large enough to allow for safe recording, staging and costuming, and so much more. We want to make this project a testament to the skills, knowledge, and resilience CSUN is known for, but we need your help!
The project will be students produced, with the guidance of CSUN Faculty. The classes involved are:
Opera – led by Professors Mercedes Juan Musotto and Maurice Godin
Visual Arts – led by professors Michael Bonitatis and Mark Farquhar
Advanced Motion Picture Editing, Film Production, and Advanced Film Production – led by Professors Karren Carpenter, Michael B. Hoggan, and Joel Krantz
Visual Effects – led by Professors Noah Amrani and Caleb Owens
Stage Management – led by Professor Matthew Jackson
Italian – led by Professor Patricia Miller
A few of our leading collaborators give their takes on this special production, which we hope gives you a sense of the importance of this activity for our college.
Professor Maurice Godin
In this time of quarantine and isolation, we are producing the Puccini comedy Gianni Schicchi. It is a farce and as such, lends itself to the extremes of human expression. It is with that in mind that we are planning on animating the production. The singers will be filmed but they will perform in a fantastical environment.
We are very excited about collaborating with the animation department and the department of film and television in order to realize a unique and cutting-edge idea: merging opera with animation. This would provide a variety of seemingly disparate artistic disciplines to come together and enrich each of the art forms through the cross-pollination of ideas and techniques. We hope to give our singers the opportunity to learn how to work on film, using playback and the technique of lip-synching to their own voice. They will work with green screen and learn how post-production and animation can enhance their performances and bring a production to life. They will learn to work, not only with a conductor and a stage director but also with a camera. They will learn to play not only to an audience but also to play to the imaginative world being created around them. They will gain an understanding of how to translate an art form traditionally experienced in a big theatre to one captured in a studio.
We will use simple yet bold costumes for the fifteen characters, designed to reflect the animated world and the makeup will be bold and expressive to reflect the world and the bold strokes of characters of farce. The set will be animated so the only need for set will be levels and platforms on which the characters can sit.
This may be something that our singers have never done before but will provide them with experience and skills that will stay with them always.
Professor Karen Carpenter
The Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication has persistently sought to discover ways in which to foster interdisciplinary collaboration between its creative departments. Many previous initiatives have been stifled by the lack of resources and funding. The COVID-19 crisis has forced us to reduce our engagement with our students and modify our pedagogy. We have been forced to rethink our modes of instruction and develop creative means to continue to inspire and challenge students to remain motivated under the current conditions. The proposed collaboration is born out of the necessity to continue to create work under the stringent rules of social distancing, but it is also a gesture of support and connection. This project has the ability to help our students to think in innovative and experimental ways and to develop an understanding of interdisciplinary creative work. It can also serve as a catalyst for future collaborative work and demonstrate what is possible, even under the current dismal circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Professor Mark Farqhhar
The Covid-19 Virus epidemic has forced us all to reconsider every aspect of life especially the way we teach and work together. Maurice and Mercedes have picked a production that is perfect for the world we and our students are facing right now. I can't think of a better time to produce a virtual opera that explores greed, death, and lies. Collaborating on the production of a virtual production of the opera Gianni Schicchi is an excellent opportunity for our animation students to work with Music, Theater, and CTVA to produce work that will help build professional skills and portfolio work. It is also an opportunity to highlight the complementary strengths of our students and departments. Any support for this project will have a lasting impact on all of our programs. We are still working out so many details, but this could be a good way to invest in equipment that will serve this and future collaborations.
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