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Prix 1987 - 2007

Ars Electronica Linz & ORF Oberösterreich

Interactive Generative Stage and Dynamic Costumes
ESG extended stage group

Commissioned by the Munich Biennale, André Werner composed the music and wrote the libretto for Marlowe: The Jew of Malta.

The libretto is based on the drama the Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe. And although Machiavelli only speaks a short prologue in Marlowe’s play, in André Werner’s libretto he becomes the opera’s central character. Machiavelli considers himself a creator of worlds and perceives himself as capable of directing the actions of the performers, but ultimately he loses control in his own game.

Due to the fundamental idea of emphasizing the presence of the central character through the choreography and the stage’s resulting definition and transformation, the virtual stage topography and composition of the opera develop parallel to each other from the first moment on. To make the virtual topography experienceable as a reproduction of Machiavelli’s world, the virtual architecture is connected to the movements of the actor playing Machiavelli. When he moves forward or backward, the architecture does the same; if he turns, the architecture turns analogously.

Technically, the movements of the actor playing Machiavelli were tracked by a bitmap-tracker, which established his exact position and his gestures. The virtual architecture was for the most part generated on the basis of plantgrowing algorithms in real time.

The different roles were not assigned to specific performers. Instead Machiavelli assigns one of the fifteen characters to each of the four performing actors. To make a quick change of costume possible and to achieve a consistency between the projected stage topography and the costumes, a process was developed to project the costumes onto the performers.

Technically, the silhouettes of the performers were tracked via infrared cameras and evaluated so that the disguises with their diverse textures could be projected onto them. The algorithms developed to do so made it possible to identify the performers, separate them when they overlapped and calculate their virtual costumes to fit perfectly in real time.