AVA's Giargiari Bel Canto Competition

Houston, We Have a Solution

During the first year of the pandemic, The Academy of Vocal Arts was unsure if they'd be able to stage The Giargiari Bel Canto event, an annual competition between roughly 12 singers performing arias from operas like Rigoletto and La sonaumbula. I discussed a few possibilities with them and eventually landed on a 4-camera program that would be livestreamed out to their audience of patrons and those who had purchased tickets digitally. The program had to accomplish a number of things:

  1. The stream needed to be flawless in terms of audio and video, as the judges for the competition would be watching live and basing their decisions on the winner remotely
  2. We needed to have a quick changeover for an intermission interview with the music director
  3. Each singer had unique asks for lighting the theater
  4. We needed to have a set of roving cameras in order to announce the winners at the end

Utilizing four Blackmagic Pocket 4K cinema cameras hooked into an ATEM Mini Pro via an HDMI-over-Ethernet solution to mitigate latency and maintain full camera control remotely. With only myself as the director and live-switcher, one camera operator, a lighting technician, and an audio engineer from Weston Sound, we were able to capture the entirety of the performance and stream them out in on evening.

Let the theater do the heavy lifting

One of the more interesting ideas, addressed in the interview portion while the judges deliberated, was the choice to shoot this at the back of the theater, under the balcony as opposed to on-stage. This allowed us to get creative and dare I say, dramatic, with our lighting as well as showcase the exceptional craftsmanship that most folks normally never notice. As a sort-of foil for these colorful and eye-catching scenes, I crafted beautiful B&W interstitial screens from both existing photography along with photos I took while scouting the location. I thought of these as a kind-of visual palette cleanse between piece all while highlighting some of the lesser-seen rooms around AVA.

Critics and Audiences Agree

In the end, we had over 500 unique, concurrent livestream viewers on the night of the performance and the video itself has gone on to receive thousands of views on YouTube and shortly thereafter became featured on

During an uncertain and scary time, we were able to bring some semblance of joy and normalcy to this incredible art form. The audience during the livestream itself was so kind and appreciative as were the singers themselves, who all agreed that while it was a little bizarre singing into room of all but 3 people, it was far better than, and I quote one of them, "singing into my bathroom mirror".

Sing It From the Rooftops

The initial success of the Giargiari Bel Canto Competition was so well-received that I was asked to return and assist with filming and livestreaming seven additional performances for them including their 2021 Farewell (Graduation) Recital, A Celebration of Opera, their 2021 Jubilate! concert, and more. It's been a privilege working with such a prestigious institution and quite literally some of the best and brightest voices in the worldwide opera community.

The Academy of Vocal Arts
Release Date
January 2022
Live Project
View Live Project

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