Renowned intimacy director Ita O'Brien, with HBO and Netflix credentials, is at the helm, overseeing Barcelona Liceu's upcoming production of 'Antony and Cleopatra.'
In a groundbreaking move for Spain, Barcelona's prestigious Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house is pioneering the use of an "intimacy director" to ensure a safe and respectful environment for opera singers in its latest production, Antony and Cleopatra.
Taking the lead on the initiative is Ita O'Brien, an intimacy coordinator who has previously lent her expertise for handling intimate scenes to HBO and Netflix productions.
Her latest venture involves overseeing the new opera adaptation of William Shakespeare's 'Antony and Cleopatra,' set to grace the stage and make its European premiere at Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house.
Creating safe spaces on the opera stage
Historically, opera performers would arrive in a city just days before opening night, with little to no discussion regarding intimate scenes, resulting in discomfort, harassment, and feelings of abuse.
Ita O'Brien is determined to change this status quo.
With more than four decades of experience in musical theatre and acting, O'Brien is the founder of 'Intimacy On Set', a company that provides support to the TV and film industry in navigating these delicate situations.
During rehearsals, her process begins with encouraging performers to "connect with a hug," followed by open discussions about their comfort zones and physical boundaries.
In a recent rehearsal, O'Brien ensured that mezzo-soprano Adriana Bignagni Lesca, in her role as Cleopatra's servant Charmian, felt comfortable with a same-sex kiss and supervised scenes where Antony embraces Cleopatra.
Lesca herself expresses the necessity for an intimacy director in every opera. "(It) allows us to coordinate the way we do things, we interact, we kiss … we need to be comfortable with all of this," she says.
'Antony and Cleopatra', directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer, opens at Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house on 28 October and runs until 8 November 2023.