We Cannot Sleep - Blog Luke Deane

We Cannot Sleep - Blog Luke Deane

We Cannot Sleep

Componist en regisseur Luke Deane kent u misschien wel van 3 Cars, de operaproductie die in 2015 bij het Grachtenfestival in première ging in de loods van Amsterdam Roest. Het tragische liefdesverhaal waarin radiografisch bestuurbare auto’s de hoofdrol speelden oogstte veel waardering bij publiek door het interactieve karakter.

Het Grachtenfestival is dan ook erg blij met Luke Deane’s nieuwste creatie, 'We Cannot Sleep'. Deze baanbrekende opera gaat komende editie in première tijdens het festival, in het Machinegebouw op de Westergasfabriek.

'We Cannot Sleep' speelt zich zowel af in de virtuele wereld, door middel van virtual reality, en de ‘echte’ wereld. Het publiek wordt voorzien van VR headsets en tijdens de voorstelling worden de toeschouwers geïnstrueerd wanneer deze gebruikt moeten worden.

Het verhaal van 'We Cannot Sleep' gaat over een unieke relatie tussen een dame en een jong meisje dat in haar dromen verschijnt. Ze raken naarmate de tijd verstrijkt steeds meer gesteld op elkaar, maar zijn zich ook bewust van de vergankelijkheid die hun virtuele vriendschap heeft. Uiteindelijk gaat de dame zodanig op in haar virtuele karakter, dat zij de realiteit uit het oog verliest. Uiteindelijk wordt de ware identiteit van het jonge meisje onthuld, waardoor de relatie tussen hun beide en dat met de realiteit tot het uiterste wordt getest.

We Cannot Sleep - Luke Deane's blogentries

In de komende weken zal Luke Deane de bezoekers van het Grachtenfestival voorzien van zogenaamde blog entries, een verslag van zijn werk en het creatieve proces dat voorafgaat aan het creëren en produceren van 'We Cannot Sleep'.

May 8th, 2017

Dear Blog,

I am having a hectic and intense time creating this opera! The production process has now truly begun; since I last checked in we have had our first VR test-shoot and our first musical rehearsals.


On a limited budget, we transformed the Grote Zaal of Splendor into a black-screen studio.

Beeld: Luke Deane.

The team from We Make VR arrived, with director Avinash Changa, Diede Bron and Leon van Oord. Together we shot footage for scene 2 and scene 4.

Scene 4 was the most challenging as it involved our main character Sunny reaching into a virtual space to take down a real prop-object. Since all of the music in We Cannot Sleep is performed live, we are only recording visuals for the VR process; this was very technically useful as it meant that I could guide Ekaterina through each scene with my voice. We tried and played around with many things, including many bags of props from the beautiful to bizarre.

Scene 2 was a lot of fun to shoot! It's the first time that Sunny enters the virtual space to pursue her own memories, and so there is a lot of searching, finding her balance and exploring the sounds in that place. During the scene she questions her identity, and changes what she wears; this involved rigorous VR shooting techniques. Ekaterina had to freeze whilst we changed her costumes, so that an edited version of the footage could feel flowing and expressive. I decided to also hide some costumes from my previous shows into this scene as well, as a kind of easter egg!

Beeld: Luke Deane.

On Monday I met with the ensemble and we had our first musical rehearsal. We were missing our Double Bassist but the rehearsal went very well anyway and we make a great team.

It's a very curious part of the composing process to finally hear your score in real life. I also had forgotten that we composers are also required to conduct our chamber works in their early rehearsal stages and so I had a nice brushing up of my conducting skills! Actually we had such a great time together playing that I completely forgot to take any photos, I'm sorry about that. I'll post an audio excerpt soon...

The mix of real life and VR is fascinating and challenging. Where in theatre you can specify the lighting perfectly for one spot, in VR an entire space needs to be evenly lit so that virtual lighting can be added in post-production. It's also a very different space to be in; in cinema and photography, you can use the frame of the image itself to focus the attention, which in VR is free to wander and exists in a sort of uncontrolled way.

Anyway watch this space! Much more to follow soon!

April 13th, 2017

Dear blog, 

The biggest question asked about this opera is "Why are you making opera with Virtual Reality?". My first answer is that I'm curious; VR experience can be so all consuming, in a way it's very similar to opera. When dealing with trending or cutting edge technology, I think there is naturally a lot of questioning involved: how does VR actually make me feel? How can VR change our traditional opera experience and is that good or bad? 

Firstly, I have done endless research, revisiting a lot of Mozart in a big way just to warm my heart, passing once again through Michael Nyman's beautiful score to Drowning by Numbers. I have also listened to so much new music, particularly new minimalist and electronic forms; I was enthralled by Lawrence Crane's new chamber music album Sound Of Horse, I revisited Carl Stone's work and was tipped off by colleague Zach Dawson about some nice Goodiepal records I hadn't heard before and I've been really loosing myself in the Vapourwave sub-genre's of music, and in post-internet art's critique of consumer capitalism. I am quite a maximalist in my approach to composing, and so it often helps me to engage with minimal, or reductionist sounds in my listening time.

I have finished the score (almost)! I say almost, because I'm so inspired recently, that I keep returning to add and change things to it. In 2 weeks, I begin rehearsals with the musicians!

(Violin: Fiona Robertson, viola: Evgeniya Peschanskaya, cello: Maya Fridman, doublebass: Claudia Velez Ruiz percussion: Konstantyn Napolov.)

The story is now at version 20, which really means that I have re-written the story 20 times. I wrote the most recent version in the style of a myth, or fable; it begins "An agoraphobe who can't leave her apartment is startled by a magic door which appears in her room, claiming that it can take her anywhere she wants...". Working with a new story is tricky, because nobody knows it so we're also really responsible for telling it, and I have had great help from Co-director and creator in her own right Annechien Koerselman.

Scetch of the agoraphobe's mental state. Foto: Luke Deane.

Brainstorm session with Annechien Koerselman. Foto: Luke Deane.

Myself and Mirjam Wijzenbeek choose our lead singer and we are both very very excited to be working with Ekaterina Levental, she's an incredible talent! We also had meetings with Marco and Caro from Nieuw Vocaal Amsterdam to search for a young singer who could play the supporting role in the story. I have also been having regular meetings with Mirjam Barendregt to discuss the production process and meeting with our scenographer Brenda van Geffen to design the set.

Working on the scenograpy with Brenda van Geffen. Foto: Luke Deane.

Close up from the opera space. Foto: Luke Deane.

Aside from things IRL (in real life), I'm also in intensive discussions with the team at We Make VR, planning how to shoot a mixture of filmed and constructed 3D reality. The 3rd character in the story is THE BIRD, and their sketch of the bird model can be seen below. We are now planning a day of test shooting in VR.

3D mockups from the virtual birds. Foto: We make VR.

3D mockup from the bird character. Foto: We make VR.

Well, that's enough talking about it!! Watch this space for more updates, and take a listen to some of my musical influences!



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