As the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center prepares for its May 6 performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, one of the key artists behind the production is projection designer and Notre Dame alum, Camilla Tassi ’16. Tassi, who studied computer science and music as a student, has gained widespread recognition for her innovative use of projection design in the performing arts. Her work has been featured in a variety of productions, ranging from operas and ballets to plays and musicals.
For the upcoming performance of Carmina Burana, Tassi has been tasked with creating a mesmerizing visual experience to accompany the iconic music. The performance promises to be a unique blend of music, dance, and visual art, showcasing the collaborative effort of some of the most talented artists in the industry.
In this interview, we asked Camilla Tassi about her artistic vision for the show, what she’s been up to since graduating, and how, through her work, she intersects science and engineering with the performing arts.
What have you been up to since graduating from Notre Dame in 2016?
Since graduating, I’ve led projection design for ensembles and groups at Lincoln Center/Juilliard, Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, as well as in Berlin and ten U.S. states. I had the joy to sing as part of a chorus with the NY Phil and produce a performance of Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar at Yale’s Schwarzman Center with conductor Gloria Yin.
I also had the chance to guest lecture at colleges, including Princeton, Penn State, and at my own institutions. Academically, I pursued an M.A. in digital musics at Dartmouth, where I first fell in love with theatrical design, followed by an MFA from Yale’s Drama School in projection under Wendall Harrington. I’m thankful to have been able to fuse my studies/interests from when I was an undergrad.
As digital projectionist, what is your vision for Carmina Burana?
I’m leaning into abstraction and emotion in the music. For me, pacing and development are tied so closely to the score and music, which will be cued live to the performers. Much of the imagery references nature and plays with scale and elements of bodies. The visuals will often be a mixture of video/movement as well as stills, in black and white and with moments of colors. We are finalizing either the use of a scrim, which will make the images “see through” with upper terrace performers behind them, or the architecture of the hall as surface, which puts the content in conversation with the space and performers.
Besides Carmina Burana, do you have any other projects you’re working on?
I’m excited to design my first La bohème in California this summer under the wonderful director Mo Zhou for Music Academy of the West. I will also be working at the PROTOTYPE festival in NYC on a premiere of a new music work, and catching the last stop of a touring Golijov song cycle I designed [which is] coming to a close after a year of touring.
Do you have any advice for current students?
A piece of advice I have is: find your niche but continue to be curious. It is OK if you have many interests! As a computer science and music dual-degree student in undergrad, I did not know projection design was even a field one could study or practice. I’m a believer that the more “languages” you speak in terms of skill set, the more you can be an effective and trusted collaborator.
It’s not as common for theatrical designers to read music, I can’t imagine doing what I do without it. For those in the arts, find friends and mentors who can give you insight into the business side as artists often have to be their own producers.
We thank Camilla Tassi for answering our questions! See her amazing visual projections at the final Presenting Series performance of the season — Carl Orff’s “scenic cantata,” Carmina Burana — May 6, 2023.