Video enhancements are all the rage on staging nowadays, and of course opera isn't exempt of the fad. Case in point: both Attila and The Magic Flute at SF Opera, which we saw on consecutive nights Friday and Saturday, prominently feature large screen with video projections. It was a tutorial in how to do it well, and how to do it poorly.
In Attila, Verdi used the Hun barbarian of the 5th century as a metaphor for the Austrian oppressor of his time, the mid-18th century. So stage director Gabriele Lavia decided to set the first act in the historic time of Attila, in a destroyed Roman amphitheater; the second act happens in Verdi's time, in a run down theater, making the Hun-Austrian symbolism explicit. But the opera ends with a third act, so the next ride in the Delorean takes us to a movie theater in the 1950s. Why, you ask? "Our choice of the movie theater was influenced by recent barbaric Italian policies: many important theaters, that were also historical sites, were demolished or refashioned and turned into modern movie theaters, " replies Lavia in an interview in the program book. Turning theaters into bowling alley, peep shows, churches, movie theaters, or gasp, parking lots: those are the real outrage, the barbaric crime against humanity. Glad it's clarified. Let's fight evil, let's bring a Shakesparian troupe back into the market street cinema already. They'll get in the VIP lounge for free if they wear their name tags.