Backstage at San Francisco Opera > October 2011 > Don Giovanni's Many Mirrors
Don Giovanni's Many Mirrors
For our new production of Don Giovanni the design requirement called for 22 large mirrors in ornate gilded frames. The mirrors all needed to be reflective to the audience but also see through, like mirrors in a police lineup room. The design intent was to have each of the mirror’s speed and position controlled independently. Below is one of 30 stunning renderings drawn by set designer Alessandro Camera.



For our new production of Don Giovanni the design requirement called for 22 large mirrors in ornate gilded frames. The mirrors all needed to be reflective to the Audience but also see through , like mirrors in a police lineup room. The design intent was to have each of the mirror’s speed and  position controlled independently. Below is one of 30 stunning renderings drawn by set designer Alessandro Camera.
 
The first step in the process was to find the appropriate materials and technique to build the mirrors.
 
21 of the mirrors are about 6’ wide by 16’ tall and one of the mirrors is 8’ tall by 20’ wide. To achieve a seamless “glass” surface we found very wide sheet Polycarbonate. This is material that is often used as bullet proof glass in bank teller windows. The material for the twenty-one 6’x16’ mirrors came to our shop as one piece rolled on a giant spool 300’x 5’7” and weighed over a ton. We cut the individual panels from the spool and stacked them flat to allow them to relax from being coiled tightly on the spool. We experimented with different transmission values of mirrored window tint film and found one the designer liked. We applied the film to one side of the polycarbonate sheets with the mirrored silvered face away from the audience because the designer wanted a black mirror surface. On the back side of the polycarbonate we applied a smoke grey film to further darken the image of anything upstage of the mirror.
 
At the same time we built a vacuum-form mold box of sections of the gilded frame. The mold was then sent to the vacuum form company where they did over one hundred “pulls” of heated ABS plastic over the mold box. Once the molding elements got back to our shop we cut out the 3 dimensional molding from the flat plastic blanks and began to assemble the molding parts onto steel frames.

The designer also wanted a distressed or antiqued quality for the face of each mirror pane. So before any of the mirrors could be attached to their frames they were sent to our paint shop floor to receive their ageing treatment.    
     
Once the frame and molding was complete we applied detail lines and diamond studs to define the panes of the mirrors.
 
We then attached the mirrors to the frames. And finally we flattened the polycarbonate by sandwiching it between wood strips and the steel frame.
 
Now we were ready to hang them. Fifteen of the mirrors are hung on spot motors with one motor connected to the two cables that support each mirror. This requires that the cables from the mirror to the spot motor hook run through guide pulleys to keep the mirrors from spinning on the single spot motor cable. The guide pulleys are mounted to one of our system pipes which is controlled separately from the mirrors. Each mirror weighs 550pounds. To fly the mirrors requires the use of 16 system pipes and 15 spot motors and over 2500’ of  show specific cable all moving precisely in concert.
 
This production would not be possible without our newly upgraded rigging system and dedicated and talented flymen.

[Below: An early technical rehearsal tests out the mirrors for one of the first times.]

Posted: 10/12/2011 12:08:31 PM by Marc Scott (Technical Director)
Filed under: DonGiovanni, production


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