War and Peace

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The idea of reconstructing the original version of Prokofiev’s opera War and Peace resulted from the opportunities provided by Celtic-Cossack Connections: to collaborate in the performance of a work which neither of the two Conservatoires would be likely to tackle on their own, which needed the participation of native Russian singers, which would present a challenge, and which would make an international creative impact.

The opera has a long and tangled history: first conceived in the late 1930s, it was started in the months before the Second World War – which gave it contemporary relevance and political backing – and in its first form was completed in the spring of 1942. This initial version failed to find approval with the Soviet authorities, however, and the opera was subjected to continual revision in the eleven years until Prokofiev’s death in 1953. By this time it had grown to 13 scenes, lasting about four hours. It has been performed in many edited versions since then, but the original has remained amongst the composer’s manuscripts in Moscow.

No musical material has had to be invented for the reconstruction; the sections discarded in the revision process have been orchestrated, as far as possible in keeping with Prokofiev’s distinctive style. The outcome reveals a work much closer to the ideals of Tolstoy, with greater emphasis on the personal and intimate and less focus on the national and tableauesque.

The Opera was staged in January 2010 by a joint effort between the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) and Scottish Opera. A student team managed this production mentored and supervised by the staff of Scottish Opera.

Creative Team

Director - Irena Brown

Set & Costume Designer - Chloe Lamford

LX Designer - Joanna Town

Production Manager - Andrew Storer (RSAMD), Darren Joyce (Scottish Opera)

Stage Management Mentor -

Stage Manager - Emma Whoriskey

Deputy Stage Manager - Kieron Johnson

Assistant Stage Managers -

Electrics Mentor - Stevie Powells

Production Electricians - Puleng Mabuya, Michaella Fee

LX Board Op. -

LX Crew -

Technical Stage Mentor - Ben Howell

Technical Stage Manager - Louise Marr

Technical Stage Crew - Martin Aitken, Scott Bremner

Scenic Elements

6 x Masking Pillars with Returns

Slider Wall

6 x Sliders

1.2m Steel Deck Platform

1.2m x 15m x 1.2m Trucked Steel Deck Section

Flown 1920's Projection Screen

8m Wooden Ramp

Flown Wooden Structure

Napoleons Tent

3 x 20 minute Snow Drop

Technical Solutions

6 x Masking Pillars with Returns

The four masking pillars DS consisted of a hard black masker with a grey textured 600mm return that fitted onto the edge of the black masker and was secured with four back flap hinges. These had to be moved to the side during each reset so the LX team could fill their DS snow machines.

DS Pillar Returns 001.jpg DS Pillar Returns 002.jpg

The two US maskers were textured flats with a hinged return that were flown and secured to the US edge of the 1.2m steel deck platform. These not only acted as masking flats but were a very useful storage space for the 100 sand bags used in the second half.

US Maskers 001.jpg US Maskers 002.jpg US Maskers 003.jpg

Slider Wall

This was the most major scenic piece it divided the stage in half across stage and marked the change in level of stage - behind the wall was a 1.2m high steel deck platform. This wall contained 6 door way sections that were filled by 6 sliding doors that each moved independently. The wall consisted of a solid lower 1.2m high section 5 x 250mm pillars and two side panels. It was then topped by cornicing and a canvas header stretched over a frame to continue the impression of solid wall. Even with the framed header flown separately the wall weighed 561kg and had to be flown over two counter weight fly bars.

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6 x Sliders

These were the most technically challenging part of War & Peace: they formed the scene changes through the first half of the opera and were required to move independently to a variety of positions. They had to be controlled from the wings, move in time with the music, and at points mirror each other in their movements.

In order to achieve this the 6 sliders were mounted on two tracks of EEE tab track and two stipulations were made: one, that the 3 SL sliders could not cross Centre Line to SR and similarly the 3 SR sliders could not cross Centre Line to SL, and two, the outer two sliders were controlled manually i.e. not by ropes (as the inner four were), and could therefore only fill the outer two door ways.

Slider Key.jpg Tab Track Map.jpg

Due to the tight scheduling for fit ups in Theatre Royal and Edinburgh Festival Theatre and the huge amount of time required and the complicity of building and running the rope lines of the tab track I decided to keep the tab track built and the rope lines in the track and transport the tab track as one unit split in the middle and folded together. The first time we attempted this manoeuvre we realised very quickly that we would have to leave a large amount of slack in the lines to allow the tab track to be folded back on its self. The scenery carrier tops remained on the tab track and the sliders fitted with the scenery carrier bottoms were removed and transported separately.

Sliders Rigging Sliders Rigging Sliders Rigging

All together the tab track and sliders weighed 621kg it was decided to hang the tab track on box truss suspended by 2 x 1ton motors mounted in the grid, motor down. Due to this approach it took quite a while to level the truss and being chain motors there was a limited degree of accuracy in their movement.

Sliders Rigging Sliders Rigging Sliders Rigging

The sliders were fitted with spades made of 6mm ply wood with curved bottoms that fitted into two guide tracks in the 18mm floor of the 1.2m steel deck platform. Due to the unevenness of the stage floor and the steel deck these guide tracks undulated across stage. This meant that the slider spades would ground out at one point and float above the guide track at other points, finding the sweet spot where this didn't happen proved to take quite some time and was then effected by the number of opera singers that were stood on the platform at any one time or point. The decision was made to deepen the track from 18mm to 25mm this gave enough room for manoeuvrability and enough of a buffer to absorb the variance in stage floor level and movement of the 18mm floor.

As the sliders were used the wood of the guide track and the wood of the spades began to rub and squeak loudly, simply rubbing candle wax over the surface of the spades regularly was enough to prevented this.

Fixing Spades Control Lines Stirrup Pulleys Control Lines

1.2m x 14.6m x 1.2m Trucked Steel Deck Section

A 1.2m high steel deck platform stretching the 14.6m across stage and trucked so it could move US to create a trench for the battle scenes. This trench closed during a live scene change.

The trucked platform was made of 6 x (1220 x 2440) pieces of steel deck joined along the 1220 edge. The two centre pieces and the two outside pieces were joined on 0.8m legs to an inverted piece of steel deck with castors on it. This gave a quick, simple, cheap method of trucking the steel deck. Each inverted piece of steel deck had an E-Stop break in the centre of it.

The trench was opened during the interval and the trucked steel deck sat against wooden blocks to stop it moving US (the breaks were not applied as they were not accessible when the trench was open so could not be released prior to the close of the trench). The trench was closed during a live scene change and the breaks re-applied.

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8m Wooden Ramp

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A long wooden ramp that was set during the interval and used to access the 1.2m platform US of the slider wall (the sliders were fully open for the whole of the second half). The ramp was constructed in two halfs and supported at the join by a trestle that the ramp sections slotted into. The ramp located using pegs that slotted into the slider tracks and was then pin hinged down to the platform and stage floor.

Ramp 001.jpg Ramp 002.jpg Ramp 003.jpg

Due to the amount of activity on the ramp and the undulating effect marching on a suspended structure causes an additional leg was added to give extra support along the longest edge and prevent the ramp from bouncing.

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Flown Wooden Structure

This was a large (7m x 11m) wooden sculpture that was flown from three points on rated chain with dressing chain wrapped around the pick up points. It broke down into 7 pieces of varying lengths then bolted together to look like exploded wooden planks on the battle field.

The challenge with this piece was getting the cast to not knock into it as it was deaded 0.5m above the stage floor and cast moved under it and stuck leaflets on it.

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Napoleons Tent

A triangle of blue cloth rigged during a live scene change by a member of crew (Martin Aitken) in costume. DS corner fixed with a small maillon to a ring plate screwed to the stage floor (fixed prior to cloth being carried on), US corner velcroed to floor cloth, top corner had a Am'D Ball Lock karabiner (for fast rig / de-rig during scene change) attached to it and was picked up by a spot line with a sand bag on the end of it to help it in. The cloth unfurled as it was lifted out to give the impression of a tent being rigged on the battle field.

This was then de-rigged during another live scene change by Martin, in costume, the DS edge being released first then the spot line dropped in and the karabiner released and the cloth carried off.

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