Groundbreaking is perhaps an overused word, but live streaming the first opera written for babies does perhaps qualify for such an accolade! Chocolate Films were delighted to partner with the innovative theatre company Improbable to bring the pioneering opera ‘BambinO’ to its young audience, tapping into the potential of live streaming to create an exciting but accessible experience. 

 

‘BambinO’ was originally produced by Scottish Opera, Manchester International Festival and Improbable, composed by Lliam Paterson and first performed in 2017 to an audience of babies aged from 6 to 18 months in a setting which was designed to be an inviting, interactive space for young children to engage with during the performance. Following a sell-out international tour, the creative team considered how to continue to reach audiences at a time of covid restrictions. Thus the idea of ‘BambinO at Home’ was born and Chocolate Films came on board to facilitate five live-streamed performances in December 2021.

Improbable is renowned for the quality of its productions which have at their core the practice and philosophy of improvisation. Working with the BambinO team under the direction of Phelim McDermott, this ethos was very much the basis for our collaboration with Improbable. In the run-up to the performances, we worked with the company to translate the experience into one which could be enjoyed via a screen. This meant building upon the existing show whilst adapting to the challenges and opportunities of streaming.

A key addition to ‘Bambino at Home’ was the participation of artist and author Viviane Schwarz. Viviane creates beautiful books and games which feature her artwork. During the performances, Viviane drew illustrations that visualised the story of a BambinO: a bird, called Uccellina, who discovers an egg. It hatches, revealing a baby bird called Pulcino.  Viviane’s simple but arresting images brought this story to life

Another important consideration for the streaming audience was the selection of camera angles and framing of shots. A total of five cameras were used to convey all dimensions of BambinO at home, which captured the whole stage, plus close-ups of the singers, musicians and the illustrator. The singers would look into the camera in order to make all-important eye contact with their audience. The camera was also able to zoom in on important elements within each scene, drawing attention to these at the right moment. A combination of lavalier and strategically placed shotgun microphones caught the all important music. 

Another important consideration for the streaming audience was the selection of camera angles and framing of shots. A total of five cameras were used to convey all dimensions of BambinO at home, which captured the whole stage, plus close-ups of the singers, musicians and the illustrator. The singers would look into the camera in order to make all-important eye contact with their audience. The camera was also able to zoom in on important elements within each scene, drawing attention to these at the right moment.

Shot sequencing was a crucial aspect of translating BambinO to the screen. All the camera feeds were sent to our Black Magic Atem switcher for vision mixing. Morgan, the streaming tech, worked with Phelim, the director, to select which visuals were seen at any given moment. The emphasis throughout was how best to tell the story and capture the imagination of the babies watching at home. For example, Viviane’s drawing of an egg in a nest, dissolved through to a shot of the golden egg in the nest of cushions on the stage, making a clear visual connection between the action and the illustration

During the three days of rehearsals, the camera moves and vision mixing became integral to the live performance, alongside all the original elements of the production. All our preparations culminated in five live-streamed performances that were watched by babies and their carers across the UK and beyond, in homes, nurseries and even a cinema. The feedback was uniformly positive, including delightful video clips of youngsters dancing and joining in with the opera or watching spellbound. Indeed many older children were able to enjoy the performances in a way that would not have been possible with the original staging, which was designed for the safe participation of babies under 18 months of age. The success of BambinO at Home certainly did break new ground and has cleared a path for future imaginative translations of live performances for new audiences.

 

 

Bambino at Home crew

BambinO at Home credits

Composer: Lliam Paterson

Director: Phelim McDermott

Designers: Giuseppe Belli & Emma Belli

Illustrator: Viviane Schwarz

Filming: Chocolate Films

Company Manager: Di Holt

Audio Describer: Ess Grange

 

Performers:

Soprano: Charlotte Hoather

Baritone: Kieran Rayner

Cello: Semay Wu

Percussion: Michael D Clark

BambinO at Home is produced by Improbable.
Originally co-produced with Scottish Opera and Manchester International Festival.
Made possible with support from Arts Council England and Garfield Weston Foundation.

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