This year, Prolight + Sound, the leading trade fair in the event technology industry, will once again honor two outstanding projects with the “Opus – German Stage Award”. Both events focus on the individuality of people, albeit in completely different ways: Firstly, the Grand Show “FALLING | IN LOVE” in the Friedrichs-Palast. Here, the story of a deaf poet in search of love is presented through a spectacular and visually impressive play of colors curated by none other than star designer Jean Paul Gautier. Secondly, the Ensamble Modern project at the cresc Biennale 2023: a walk-in sound body that explores the position of the individual in relation to and within society. The jury awarded the project the special “Opus AVantgarde” prize for this impressive realization.
Opus Award: highlight of stagecraft and technical innovation
Since 2002, the “Opus” – one of the most prestigious awards for exceptional stage projects – has honored creativity and technical innovation in theater productions, concerts, conferences and open-air events. The award is presented annually at Prolight + Sound by a jury of experts from the industry, associations, trade media and representatives of Messe Frankfurt. The Association for Media and Event Technology (VPLT), the European Association of Event Centers (EVVC) and Messe Frankfurt itself are the sponsors of the non-endowed honorary award. In 2023, the Staatstheater Kassel won the coveted award for the “Pandaemonium”, an innovative loggia theater concept.
This year’s award ceremony will take place on March 21, 2024, accompanied by a glamorous gala dinner at the Steigenberger Icon Frankfurter Hof.
Moving stage spectacle: “FALLING | IN LOVE”
When the perfect blend of creative genius and technical brilliance comes together with adequate financial resources, the perfect breeding ground is created for art that impresses and moves us. Berlin’s Friedrichs-Palast recently demonstrated this impressively with its Grand Show “FALLING | IN LOVE”, which celebrated its world premiere on October 11, 2023. With an impressive production budget of 14 million euros, more than 100 artists from 28 different countries created a stage world that shines in a spectacular blaze of colors, shapes, costumes and effects, supported by technical innovations.
Collaboration with Swarovski brings the show to life
In an exclusive collaboration with Swarovski, 100 million crystals will be used to transform the show into an unparalleled sea of lights, setting an unprecedented record in the world of film and theater. This includes the largest Swarovski crystal ever cut in the world, which weighs in at a proud 180 kg. As visual design director, design icon Jean Paul Gaultier implemented his unique aesthetic vision for both the costumes and the set design. As curator of the show, he also brought on board rising stars of the design world, including Hannah Rose and Steven Raj from Fecal Matter. With their unique perspective on beauty and reality, they challenge ideals of beauty and redefine boundaries. The team is complemented by Sasha Frolova, a performance artist specializing in latex, who impresses with her striking aesthetics.
Technical innovation rewrites the rules of stagecraft
For the first time, performers with disabilities have been engaged for the show at Friedrichs-Palast: Dancers Callum Webdale and Hearns Sebuado, both deaf, take turns playing the role of the protagonist You. In order to create optimal conditions for their performance, the stage floor was equipped with a vibration plate, which enables them to orient themselves to the sound waves of the music during their solos. All of the lyrics are translated for them by a sign language interpreter. To replace classic bell signals, their dressing room was specially equipped with light signals.
This breathtaking stage show also impresses with its outstanding technical features, including movable lifting platforms in a water basin, impressive water effects, mirror zones and a majestic rain curtain. The audiovisual pleasure reaches its climax with a comprehensive 360° sound system and spectacular lighting consisting of 250 LED spotlights, 129 conventional light sources and 347 moving lights that transport the audience into another world.
A moving story that captures the spirit of the times
The concept behind the project comes from Berndt Schmidt, who brings the show to life as director and producer. His idea was inspired by William Blake’s (1757-1827) poem “The Garden of Love.” Oliver Hoppmann, one of Europe’s most successful show creators, is responsible for writing and directing.
At the center of the plot is the story of the protagonist You, a deaf poet full of passion and desire. He stands outside conventional social patterns and often feels misunderstood. His search for love is unsuccessful and he is repeatedly rejected. But suddenly the ground of social conventions opens up beneath him and he falls into a hidden world, an alternative reality. In this garden of love, he discovers unprecedented beauty, an undulating blaze of color, the magic of nature and the gift of its diversity – here the dream of a better world comes to life. In the end, will You manage to find the right words to tear down the man-made walls and let love blossom?
This moving tale, wrapped in a visually and technically sophisticated flood of images and costumes, undoubtedly appeals to the zeitgeist and has already sold over 300,000 tickets.
The Ensamble Modern secures the Opus AVantgarde for the “Begehbare Klangkörper”
This year, the Ensemble Modern, an internationally recognized group of leading modern music artists, will be awarded the “Opus AVantgarde” special prize. The award is for their project “Begehbare Klangkörper”, presented at the “cresc – Biennale für aktuelle Musik” in Frankfurt. This formation, which is one of the world’s most renowned in its field, regularly performs at renowned festivals all over the world. Ensemble Modern organizes the “cresc” festival in cooperation with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. In 2023, under the motto “MeWe”, the festival was dedicated to exploring the interplay between the individual and the community through a broad spectrum of contemporary forms of musical expression.
The work “Earth Dances” by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, a joint production by the hr-Sinfonieorchester and Ensemble Modern, offered the audience the opportunity to have a completely new experience directly after the live performance: A walk-through sound installation. Thanks to the use of innovative technologies by sound designer and sound director Norbert Ommer, the sounds of the orchestra were integrated into a 3D audio installation. This allows the audience to move through the spatial sound body of the orchestra. Norbert Ommer ensured a linear reproduction of the sounds, which he mixed live in three dimensions via a d&b Soundscape System and distributed in the room.
The technical equipment for this project consisted of 44 loudspeaker units and 8 subwoofers placed at different levels – some on the floor, others at a height of five meters and others in a circle below the ceiling of the studio. The undisputed highlight was the ability to rotate the entire orchestra by up to 180 degrees and the targeted movements of the leading instruments within the sound space. This was achieved in cooperation with leading companies, including Crystal Sound. The result was an impressive musical journey made possible by a technically advanced concept. It broke the usual boundaries of a concert experience and transported the audience into a new world of contemporary music.
The Opus winners of recent years
Last year’s winner was “Pandaemonium”, space stage of the Staatstheater Kassel.
Two projects were honored in 2022. The award winners could not have been more different, but both dealt creatively with the challenges of the coronavirus crisis in their own way:
The first winner of the Opus was the “Dionysos Stadt Open Air”, which made art and cultural experiences possible for a larger audience in the summer of 2021 with a lot of courage and an impressive backdrop, while adhering to all restrictions. The creators of the “Woodkid @ ZDF Magazin Royal” project broke new technical ground, making a virtue out of necessity and creating a completely new augmented reality experience. This extraordinary TV event was awarded the newly created “Opus AVantgard” by the jury.
In 2020, the Italian opera Rigoletto was awarded the opus.