Émilie is a modern one-singer opera about French Enlightenment thinker Émilie du Châtelet. Émilie was many things: the brilliant physicist who first defined kinetic energy; mistress to Voltaire, among other luminaries; a prodigious mathematician and the translator of Newton’s Principia Mathematica; the author of a treatise on the happiness of women; a pioneer of what are now called financial derivatives in part to pay off $1 million she lost to card sharks in a night of gambling- all achieved before she died in childbirth in 1749, when she was 42.

The projections were layered onto translucent screens to create an immersive space for the performer. The content was developed to highlight the fragmentation of the inner mind of Émilie during the days leading to her death.

The primary source for the content was the pages from Émilie du Châtelet’s original journal which we were given access to by the Morgan Library in NYC. We carefully scanned the pages and created animations using the original authors handwriting and diagrams. The emotional nature of the handwriting creates an ominous tone when projected onto the scenery.

Émilie premiered at Spoleto Festival USA in 2011, then was seen as part of the Lincoln Center Festival in 2012 and at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki in 2015.

Click Here to read an article in Live Design about the projection design.

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exerpts from Lincoln Center Festival production


Composer Kaija Saariaho
Director Marianne Weems
Scenic Design Neal Wilkinson
Video Design Austin Switser
Lighting Design Allen Hahn
Sound Design Dan Dobson
Costume Design Claudia Stephens
Associate Projection Design Jesse Garrison