ROME – Plans are underway for “Universal Judgment: Michelangelo and the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel” – a surround-sound live show that boasts a theme composed by Sting, the pyrotechnic energy of an Olympic ceremony, and the Vatican’s imprimatur – to travel internationally.
Italian producer Marco Balich, known for devising the opening ceremonies of the Rio, Sochi, and Turin Olympics, says he is in advanced talks to bring the $10 million high-tech spectacle to Moscow for a six-month run and Latin America for a two-year tour.
The show, created in cooperation with the Vatican Museums, who are acting as advisors, looks at Michelangelo and his frescoed masterpiece. Starring A-list Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino (“World War Z,” “Angels & Demons”) as the Renaissance master artist, it has pre-sold 50,000 tickets ahead of its March 15 bow in the Auditorium della Conciliazione near St Peter’s Basilica, Balich said.
The Vatican, which Balich has paid for photo and video rights, will not be making money directly from ticket sales but will profit from what he called “contained” royalties from the production.
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Balich said that the show would “unveil the secrets of the Sistine Chapel,” including the ritual of papal-election conclaves and the phases of Michelangelo’s work as he painted scenes such as the famous Creation of Adam. The chapel, which was built in 1473, attracts around 6 million visitors each year. Balich said he approached the subject with Vatican-approved rigor but also with “light effects that will be beyond anything you would see at a rave or an electronic dance music event.”
For the immersive show, which will feature “actors, dancers and acrobats,” state-of-the-art 4K projections onto giant ceiling screens, and 9.1 surround sound, Balich has assembled a team comprising his co-director and frequent collaborator Lulu Helbek; British lighting designer Bruno Poet; Greek choreographer Dimitri Papaioannou, who was creative director of the 2004 Athens Olympic; and Stufish Entertainment Architects, who are known for their stage sets for U2, Madonna, and Lady Gaga, among other acts.
Rome recently saw another attempt to turn its history into spectacle, lavish rock opera “Divo Nerone,” staged on an open-air venue on the Palatine Hill with sets by triple Oscar-winner Dante Ferretti. It turned into a miserable flop after a group of nuns in a nearby convent filed a complaint about the decibel levels, forcing organizers to shut down the production.