A production remembered

The video projections in Faust

Interview with Mathilde Jobbé Duval

By Aliénor Courtin 08 July 2022


© Elena Bauer / OnP

The video projections in Faust

Staged by Tobias Kratzer for the first time during in 2020, Faust was truly discovered by the public in 2022. This production, reimagined in a contemporary fashion, uses modern technology: video projections punctuate the story and participate fully in the narrative. To mark its revival on the stage of the Opéra Bastille, Octave met Mathilde Jobbé Duval, head of the video-sound team, who presents several techniques used, including live camera and frontal projections.

I have been working at the Opera for 17 years. Today, I am a audio and video production manager. I don't participate in the intital creative process, but as of the first technical run-throughs and stage rehearsals. My job, together with the whole team, is to study the project's feasibility and to do everything possible to bring it to fruition. It's always very satisfying to take part in creations because you really work on building something with the director and his teams.

For Faust, the director, Tobias Kratzer, and the video artist, Manuel Braun, came up with an ambitious video installation. A frontal projection on a tulle covering the entire proscenium combines pre-created images and live video.

Most of the videos were shot by drone in the streets of Paris during the lockdown. Others were taken from archive stockshots. For the scene of "La Chevauchée", two extras playing Faust and Mephistopheles shot the images in costume on the Champs-Elysées by night. Manuel Braun also chose to use special effects to animate certain images. This is the case of the scene showing Notre-Dame de Paris in flames.

Once all these images had been shot and edited, and Tobias Kratzer and Manuel Braun had selected the shots to appear on the screen, my job was to assemble the projection and make it as attractive as possible. I made corrections to colours and angles, cropping and harmonising formats. Most of my work is therefore prepared in advance so that everything runs smoothly during the performance. Then, during the performance, I make sure that the broadcast goes smoothly.

One of the most used video systems is the live camera. The soloists are filmed live by two cameramen who are two of the extras playing Mephistopheles' demons. I am in contact with them throughout the performance to assist with their movements and to check that the setting is clear before being projected live, depending on the camera feedback I see from my control room. This system is used in Marguerite's "Jewel Aria" scene and also in Dame Marthe's flat and in the metro.

© Charles Duprat / OnP

I am also in contact with the stage manager who gives me the cues. That is, she indicates the exact moments at which I should launch the images, according to musical cues. In the case of the live scenes, the camera sequences were defined when the production was created with the previous performer of Marguerite (editor's note: the performer in 2021 was Ermonela Jaho and in 2022, Angel Blue). The two singers do not follow exactly the same movements, so we have to adapt the sequence of images. It's still live! To sum up, as a video operator, I pay attention to the artists' movements and the stage manager to the music.

Tobias Kratzer's direction is very readable, the story is told literally so the videos are very realistic. Of course, some scenes are more fanciful than others, like that of "La Chevauchée". But it remains a narrative video, every frame moves the story forward.

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