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We had a great day Monday kicking off InfoComm AV week with a behind-the-scenes tour of Utah Opera’s production of La Bohème. Capitol Theatre in beautiful Salt Lake City Utah was our setting for the tour.
We had Listen peeps and some local InfoComm members join in on the fun. Several members of the Utah Opera staff guided us through the intricacies of producing a main-stage opera like La Bohème and some of the AV elements that are incorporated in an opera production.
Michelle Peterson, Utah Opera Company Director shared with us that opera as it is produced has not changed much technologically in the last 400 years of opera’s history. Opera is rich with old traditions and there is not a lot of technology used. This is due in part to the uncertainty of live performances and needing the ability to adjust to the flow of the conductor, orchestra and singers performance by performance. Opera singers do not use microphones to amplify their voices – they rely on their talent and the acoustics of their theaters to project their voices. Microphones are used to provide audio to the backstage areas.
Michelle also shared with us what is involved with planning for an opera production. Utah Opera plans its repertoire five years in advance. This allows for flexibility for casting the right talent and for fiscal responsibility with budgets.
One piece of AV technology which I found to be most helpful was the super titles that allow patrons to read what the artists are singing on stage, which in most cases is performed in a foreign language. The super-titles are displayed above the stage so that all patrons can see them.
We were fortunate enough to hear from Paula Fowler, Utah Opera Education Outreach Director about the awesome educational programs they have for the local school children. She also shared with us the services they offer for the visually impaired and hard of hearing. They collaborate with the Moran Eye Center to deliver a special program to the blind and sight impaired. They provide the libretto in Braille, deliver a presentation where they pass around props and costumes so they can touch and get a sense of what is on stage. They also have a person describing the opera so that the visually impaired can get a real sense of the set, costumes, and what the artists are doing on stage.

Communication is key backstage at La Bohème and AV equipment has ensured that an opera production can run smoothly.

Typically taking place in the 1830s, Utah Opera’s production of La Bohème has been updated to 1939 pre-war in Paris – giving it a more modern feel. If you have not been to see an opera, musical or theater performance at Capitol Theatre I strongly recommend it. Watch this short video to see and hear from various staff members at Utah Opera what their favorite scenes are from La Bohème.
Three separate ListenTALK receivers in a row with different group names on each display screen.
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