September 23, 2011

"The Priest and his servant Balda" - our animated opera- a great success at #wmc60


(ENG) "The Priest and his servant Balda" opened in Netherland yesterday, at the "WMC 60-years" jubilee. The performance was a great succsess. Conductor: Odd Terje Lysebo. Art Director: Hans Jørgen Sandnes. Storyteller: Marjon Lambriks. Choreographer: Joke de Backer.

(N) I går var det ny-premiere på familieforestillingen "The Priest and his servant Balda" i Nederland. En fullsatt sal med ca 1000 tilhørere ga forestillingen stående applaus. Forestillingen består av orkester, kor og sangere i tillegg til levende dukker og animasjonsfilm produsert av Sandnes Media.

Forestillingen åpnet 60-års jubileet for "World Music Contest" i Kerkrade, Nederland. Før forestillingen tok kronprinsesse Maxima seg av den offisielle åpningen.

August 10, 2007

Thank you!

July 29, 2007

Review from

Posted July 25 @ 17:00 Irish Time (16:00 GMT/UTC)
The Priest and His Servant Balda

Dwayne Corbin
Perhaps the most striking event of the week was Thursday’s performance of a lost Shostakovich opera, The Priest and His Servant Balda, under the leadership of Norwegian conductor Odd Terje Lysbo. Quoting from the program notes,
The project was originally a full-length animated opera by Mikhail Tsekhanovsky, with music by Shostakovich. However the movie and most of the music was destroyed during WWII. In 1980 the project was realized as an opera…[and] now has been further edited by Odd Terje Lysebo after new discoveries….

Lysebo commissioned an animation company to create a new film, as only three minutes of the original film was in existence. This original excerpt was incorporated into the opening of the new version. The video was used in combination with live actors, wind ensemble (with cello and string bass) accompaniment, a small choir, and vocal soloists. The animation purposefully imitated the appearance of shadow-puppet theatre, drawing connections with another classic story-telling tradition. Thus, in order to create a uniform look, the live actors had costumes that seemed animated, with exaggerated features, large hollow eyes, and disproportionate bodies.

The basic story is that of a priest, his wife and daughter, a servant named Balda, and various devils. The gullible priest is searching for cheap labor, and is delighted to find Balda who is willing to work one year for no money: all he asks is to smack the priest three times over the head at the end of the year. All is well on the farm during the year, and Balda and the priest’s daughter fall in love. The priest sends Balda on what he thinks is an impossible journey in order to have an excuse to fire him, in order to avoid the humiliation of receiving three bonks to the head. Balda is ordered to go to the lake where the devil lives in order to collect a payment that is owed to the priest. After much manipulation and some humerous physical competitions, Balda does in fact win his master’s back pay. Upon Balda’s return, he demands his wages, and his hits to the priest’s head causes the minister to go insane.

The production was unlike any theatre event I have ever seen. The flow between the music, animation, live acting, and singing was flawless and logically connected. The video and acting alternated, with the screen becoming simple backgrounds to the actors. While it was unusual to have one character represented by two people, an actor and a singer, it provided for much more freedom on stage, and allowed for some interesting moments when the singers moved onto the stage and interacted with their character. Even the band was involved in the action: players held devil puppets in one scene, and in the prior scene Balda actually came over and pushed Lysebo off the podium and conducted a piece himself!

The music was unmistakably Shostakovich, containing scales, modes, melodic constructions, and folk elements that we have all come to associate with him. The folk element became central in several pieces, as some songs were accompanied with just an accordion or a balalaika, the three-stringed triangle-shaped Russian lute. In another piece, the tenor saxophone player walked to the opposite edge of the stage to play a beautiful duet. Overall, the music was most often light-hearted.
One element that was a bit confusing was Shostakovich’s choice to have some of the characters change vocal parts. For instance, the priest’s wife was usually sung by a soprano, but at one point it moved to the bass. The priest was both a bass and a tenor. Since the play had no sub-titles and the actors’ mouths didn’t move, this made sometimes made it difficult to tell who was speaking.

The quality of the performance was excellent. The technological aspect of coordinating video and amplified singers was flawless, and the sound was well-balanced between instruments and voices. The orchestra played with great character and style. The actors created wonderful characters: the grumpy priest, the frumpy wife, the flittering daughter, and the macho and confident Balda who walked with a great gait. The devils provided some excellent contrast as well, especially the Little Devil who had limbs made out of what looked like Slinkys, requiring two actors to create amazing visual gags. There were some minor first-night jitters, it seemed, especially from the narrator who occasionally seemed uncertain of where he was supposed to go.

Each performing ensemble that came to WASBE brought something new to the audience, and this is certainly one of the most compelling reasons to attend a convention such as this. Special kudos to Odd Terje Lysebo for pushing this no-longer-lost work to the stage; it is a marvelous work and I am delighted to know that it will receive many more performances in the future as this production tours around Norwegian schools next year.

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July 15, 2007

"Balda = Brilliant"

We want to thank the publisher of the website, Anthony Reimer, that posted the following on Friday July 13th:

Balda = Brilliant
Anthony Reimer

As the publisher of this web site (, I occasionally interject my own commentary when something warrants it, and Thursday's performance of the reconstructed Shostakovich Opera The Priest and his Servant Balda certainly qualifies. We will have a full review later from another writer, but news of this triumph by Odd Terje Lysebo and the cast of musicians, puppeteers, animators and production staff could not wait. For those who were in attendance, it was unforgettable. It is difficult to describe this multimedia theatrical event, but we have never seen anything like it at a WASBE Conference. It received a well-deserved standing ovation; cheers of "bravi" were clearly heard. Congratulations to the Nanset Wind Orchestra and the whole Balda team. I only have two words for you, Odd: world tour!

July 13, 2007

We did it! Success in Ireland!

Yesterday, at 8 pm, "The Priest and his servant Balda" had it´s world premiére! The animated opera was a highlight of the WASBE festival 2007, and finally became a great success. Everything worked just perfect... and the performance was a kick for everybody involved. Today we are very happy, recieving fantastic feedback. Composers and musicians from all over the world are telling us that "this is the funniest opera ever!" and "would you like to come to our country?" Some are even calling it the "greatest WASBE-experience ever". So, we are very happy. I´ll be posting more pictures when we are back in Norway, but here are some snapshots from the festival:

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July 7, 2007

Article, "The Irish Times"

On Thursday, The Irish Times wrote about our project. Check it out here (pay subscription required for most sections).

July 5, 2007

350 people at "Balda"s first performance!

On wednesday 4th of July, we tested our opera on stage with an audience. 350 people came to see the first performance ever of "The Priest and his servant Balda". Here you can see our back-stage pictures, taken by Christian at Hjertnes, Sandefjord, and Morten at Doppler Film.

The puppets, the animated backdrop and the orchestra on stage.

The rehersals: Nanset Wind Ensemble and the animated film.

The rehersal: our singers. Two norwegians and four russians.

From the performance: Balda with conductor Odd Terje Lysebo.

Lyder, the storyteller.

The rehersal:


June 28, 2007

Behind the scenes 02

Hi! More videos! Here you can see the puppets, created and tested for the first time. Some of the puppets are finished, others are reworked several times. In videos to come, you will see the final puppets in action.

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The norwegian poster

This is the poster for the norwegian screening of the opera. This is a test-screening at Hjertnes in Sandefjord.
The premiére will be at the WASBE-festival. We will post material for the WASBE-premiére very soon.


June 27, 2007

Behind the scenes 01

Take a look behind the scenes!

June 25, 2007

Rehearsing, rehearsing!

We are now rehearsing on stage, with puppets, music and projected animation! Here you can see part of the ensemble. Our first test with an audience will be at Hjertnes in Sandefjord, Norway, 4th of july. The premiére will be at the WASBE festival in Killarney, Ireland, at the 12th of july.


June 5, 2007

The first clips revealed!

Take a look at the first clips from our animated opera!

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May 29, 2007

Puppets on stage!

We are now testing the puppets on stage, rehersing the performance. The puppets are nearly completed, and the animated film is currently in production. Enjoy these pictures from the first rehersal!

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May 21, 2007

A hard days work at our studio!

Here are some of todays pictures from our studio:

Overview of our studio. The scenes are filmed, and then composited with the animated backgrounds. From left: Lars Thorsen, 3D designer, and me.

Jon Løvaas making the cut-out models.

Puppeteer Ingjerd Skrede working with Jon on "the bear´s cage".

Director Anne Helgesen and puppeteer Ingjerd discussing the models.

Puppeteers at work!

Resting between the filming-sessions: Ingjerd, my self and Lars Wingaard, puppeteer.

At the end of the day, I´am watching all of the scenes. Our process is very interesting and intuitive, but needs controlled editing and detailed logs. Every scene is checked against the story-boards.

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May 16, 2007

Now filming!

The animated backdrop for the Opera is now being filmed. The techniqe is quite unic: Shadow-theatre is filmed and projected ontop of animated backgrounds. All layers are composited in 3D, and then printed to video. The video is then shipped to Ireland, and projected on the theatre screen behind the musicians on our premiére in Kilarney this summer. I´ll post more pictures soon! We are very enthusiastic. It looks amazing!

Here are som picture of Jon (scenograpy) and me, Hans Joergen (art-direction), shooting DEVIL-sequences for the film.


May 10, 2007

Going on-stage next week!

Next week these pupets will do their first tests on-stage. The puppets are going to support the animated film, sharing the spotlight with musicians and singers. These heads are made by effect-maker Steinar Kaarstein at his workshop in Tønsberg.

The puppets are based on my designsketches, and to make them in real-life is no small task. To help Steinar, Lars Thorsen and I from Sandnes Media AS did 3D computer designs. Here you can see the first test of the Priest:

The premiére of the Opera will be at the WASBE-festival in Ireland, july 2007. Later, the show (with singers, puppets, animated film and musicians) will visit many norwegian cities. This blog follows the production of the whole production.


April 25, 2007

Cut-outs for the animated film

Here are some pictures from our studio in Larvik, Norway. We are now making the cut-out models for the animated film. Jon Loevaas from Preset is making the merry-go-round for Balda and the Priests daughter. It´s shadow will appear in the animated film.

Jon Loevaas from "Preset" and Camilla Andersen from "Sandnes Media as" are working in the studio, testing lights and shadows for the film. Jon is making the merry-go-round, testing diferent techniques.

Anne Helgesen from "Kattas" and Jon from Preset working on the script and scene-model. The film is now taking shape, and the next months will be filled with really hard work! But... we are having a very good time!


April 12, 2007

Building the puppets#2

Balda´s big head is in creation! Jon Loevaas took these pictures yesterday, at Effektmakeren´s workshop in Norway. The head is not finished yet, but here you can see the full-scale model.

Steinar Kaarstein in his workshop. Steinar works from small maquettes, translating them into full-size puppets.

Scenographer Jon Loevaas tested different spots of light on the uinfinished model. Jon will work out the entire light-design.

As production-designer, I´am very curious about the progression in the workshop. Seeing my drawings taking shape in 3D is a great experience! Steinar does a great job!

We will post more photos very soon!