I volunteer with a few local theatres in Dayton, mostly as a sound technician and a stage manager, and occasionally as a member of the stage crew. But I generally stay away from working with the sets – I’m not much of an artist, so I don’t like painting flats, and I’m just a little too afraid of working with power tools to want to help with the building process. But maybe if I had the same access to large-scale 3D printers busily working on scenic design as the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome does, I would feel differently.

In August, we learned that Italy-based WASP had been working for months to create 3D printed scenery for the theatre’s Fra Diavolobased on the scenographer’s original concept – a 3D printed model of two deformed historic buildings not unlike a work by Salvador Dalí, which fits with the show’s central element of a deformed perception of reality.

“The characters of this work will have costumes that date back to the 1960s, because I always imagine every theatrical representation as something that is talking about us, and even if it is ancient, it turns to the sensitivity of today audience, with a story that touches our deepest notes,” explained Fra Diavolo director Giorgio Barberio Corsetti, who made the decision to use 3D printing as a solution for the opera’s approach to set design. “To the fantastic fantasy of the plot, inspired to a character belonging to popular tradition, seemingly unstable and crooked scenery, as disturbing as a Dalí picture, make echoes. And to accomplish this characteristic irregular shape of the scenes, the collaboration of the WASP team was fundamental, in fact they committed so deeply to reach an extraordinary result.”

We’ve seen 3D printing technology take the stage before, to help with costumes for a university play and Cirque du Soleil productions, and even a 5-foot-tall elephant statue for a ballet, but never quite on this scale.

WASP got to work in a secondary location near its Massa Lombarda headquarters in April, using five of its industrial DeltaWASP 3MT 3D printers, which were released last fall, to make hundreds of 3D printed scene model pieces and components out of white PLA material over the course of three months.

Obviously, one of the biggest challenges of this theatrical project was making the tight deadline. In addition, the 3D model was a unique block, which WASP then had to divide into a total of 223 separate pieces so they would fit the printers’ one-cubic-meter build volumes.

“The challenge presented to us by the Opera Theater was a very risky one. It had never happened that 3D printing was  applied to such a large size project. The plastic we normally use to print has a huge cost when used to produce the 1500 Kg of the scenery,” WASP founder Massimo Moretti said. “So we decided to turn to a cheaper material, one that, when the scenery will no longer be used, can be easily recycled, shredded and reused for a new and different work. For this job at first we rented a shed near our home, now this shed is ours and we are the only 3D printing company able to produce very large objects. This is the case of Fra Diavolo, where art is dragging the industry and opening up new creations and new job opportunities.”

Thanks to the speedy work of the printers, the scenery was completed on schedule in mid-July, and all of the components were delivered to the theatre in Rome, along with a DeltaWASP 3MT printer. Fra Diavolo, which lists WASP as the official technology partner for this opera in three acts, will open this Sunday, October 8th, though there will be a special youth preview performance on Friday, and runs through Saturday, October 21st. The opera is billed as a new production, in co-production with Teatro Massimo di Palermo, and will be performed in the original Italian, with English subtitles.

At a press conference earlier this week, a special performance of the 3D printing kind took place – WASP assembled and mounted the DeltaWASP 3MT next to the entrance of the theatre. The industrial printer will be working all week, until the opening performance of Fra Diavolo this Sunday, as WASP engineers 3D print a 1:1 scale statue representing the Fra Diavolo character. At the event, Carlo Fuortes, Superintendent of the Fondazione Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, who WASP has previously said is “deeply confident in using 3D printing for studio and stage design,” explained the decision.

“We are sure that what we experienced for the first time how to perform a scene in the technique of the future: 3D print,” Fuortes said. “Moreover, the story of theatrical performance has always been a story of inventions and experimentation of techniques and materials. Today 3D printing is already present in all design work but also in building elements in various productive areas. Here, for the first time, thanks to WASP’s commitment and work, it is employed to build the scenery of a lyric.”

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com, or share your thoughts below. 

[Images courtesy of WASP]

 

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