Coronavirus Fine Arts Life + Arts

Moores Opera Center adapts performances to film

The Moores Opera Center will stream their latest performance, Trouble in Tahiti, for free from Jan. 18 through 23 on Facebook Live. | File Photo/The Cougar

The Moores Opera Center will stream their latest performance, “Trouble in Tahiti,” for free from Jan. 18 through 23 on Facebook Live. | File photo

As the Moores Opera House remains shuttered due to the pandemic, the Moores Opera Center is exploring new ways to connect the UH community to the art of opera. 

Singing indoors without a face mask carries the risk of spreading COVID-19 through aerosols. So, the Moores Opera Center has pivoted to develop opera films that viewers can watch online. Their latest offering, “Trouble in Tahiti,” will stream for free in six segments on Facebook Live from Jan. 18-23. 

“We have had to adapt in many ways to keep opera going, including staging our operas so that the singers maintain 6-foot social distancing, which can be quite a feat if there is any stage action that calls for physical touch,” said Nicole Kenley-Miller, production manager at the Moores Opera Center and director for “Trouble in Tahiti.  “

“The singers also have to wear masks in all rehearsals, which can be quite challenging when you are inhaling to the level that opera requires,” Kenley-Miller added. 

All singers performed in recording studios by themselves to prevent coronavirus spread. The recordings were later edited together to create the illusion of performers interacting in the same space. 

Learning “a completely different medium” to adapt opera to film has proved to be the greatest challenge, Kenley-Miller said. 

On the stage, everything is performed with continuity. The props and set don’t have to be perfect because they are seen from a distance, and the performers have to act in a “larger” way so that the audience can see their gestures and facial expressions,” Kenley-Miller said. 

“With film, scenes are filmed in much shorter segments often out of order from the final product, the acting is more subtle, and everything has to look authentic up close because the camera ‘sees everything.’” 

Through all of the challenges of transitioning opera performances to film, Kenley-Miller feels “proud” of how the students handled the change in medium and having to perform without their scene partners.   

For vocal performance senior Audrey Walsh, adapting to pandemic performance changes and performing in a room by herself has proved to be a “really interesting” experience. She plays the role of Dinah in “Trouble in Tahiti,” portraying the wife in a loveless marriage.

“The greatest challenge has been rehearsing with the pre-recorded accompaniment tracks. In a normal circumstance, we would be performing with a live pianist and would be able to listen to each other, make eye contact and achieve a true ensemble sound,” Welsh said. 

“While performing with tracks can be challenging, it’s been so rewarding to hone this skill and I believe it will serve me should online operas become more mainstream,” Welsh continued. 

Welsh credits Kenley-Miller’s creativity in the face of a necessary virtual transition critical for the opera films’ creation. 

“Her creativity, tenacity and dedication to this project is just incredible … Nicole is the heart of this entire production,” Welsh said. “Hopefully, because of the efforts from amazing people like Nicole, online operas can become more common and operatic stories can reach even more people online.

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