La Tragédie de Carmen

Last month, I had the pleasure of shooting the promotional imagery for the independent opera production of Bizet's La Tragédie de Carmen. I wrote a post about creating the mood board I used on that project, which included strategies on collaborating with your clients. My client was the Loose TEA Music Theatre company and this was its first production.

The director reimagined the opera to take place at a burlesque club in post-WWI New York City. Carmen is a burlesque dancer and her primary suitor Don José is fresh out of the war, struggling with shell shock. Her other suitors, Don José's leiutenant, Zuniga, and a mob boss named Escamillio, all vie for Carmen's love and, let's face it, her loins. Add village maiden Michaela to the mix, sent to pursue Don José and bring him back home, and you have a classic recipe for love traingles, sex, and murder.

The budget was tight, but I knew what I wanted to shoot and what we needed to do to get it. To reflect the atmosphere of a burlesque club, I wanted the option of being able to see stage lights in the images. I put the barn doors on the rim light and rented a haze machine to provide the smokey atmosphere I needed. I want with a haze machine instead of a fog machine because the particles are much finer and the haze catches the light in a very consistent, graduated manner. A fog machine might have also worked, but I knew I wanted to be able to see the effect of the light, even if the light itself wasn't in the picture. You can see how well this worked below.

Since the main cast consisted of only five characters, I decided I wanted to have each character represented by its own colour in rim lighting. Since Carmen is the epicentre of passion in the story, and the cause of all the blood shed. She would be represented by red. Don José got a green gel to represent his army fatigues and the green monster of envy that comes to possess him. Escamillio gets blue to represent the cold underbelly of New York's crime scene. Michaela gets yellow to reflect the innocence and naivity of her youth, a reflection of always having the sunshine at her back. And, finally, Zuniga's plain white rim light suggests a simple ideology of black-and-white lines, in which very little grey area exists.

Since the production and shoot were on a shoestring budget, I couldn't hire a crew, so I put a call out to some photogs I knew who could help out. The fabulous Shayne Gray stepped up to the plate, and also took some behind-the-scene photos when he wasn't adjusting lights. Below are the great BTS images taken by Shayne when he wasn't being amazing with the lighting or wafting the haze machine.

The show ran this past weekend and my good friend Jessica and I went for a great night out. We stopped for wings and ribs before heading to theatre. The singing was absolutely amazing. The cast was wonderful and the whole night was an absolutely great time. This was only my second time seeing opera, but I look forward to many more. More importantly, I look forward to working with Loose TEA Music Theatre on their next production. I wonder what's in store.