The Sistine Chapel Gets Its Own High-Tech Spectacle, With Music By Sting : Parallels Now there's a new spectacle where visitors can feast their eyes on every detail of Michelangelo's masterpieces, with high-definition projections, actors, acrobats and music.
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The Sistine Chapel Gets Its Own High-Tech Spectacle, With Music By Sting

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The Sistine Chapel Gets Its Own High-Tech Spectacle, With Music By Sting

The Sistine Chapel Gets Its Own High-Tech Spectacle, With Music By Sting

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/607020904/609304255" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

One of Rome's must-see sites, the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, is usually so packed that visitors have a hard time taking in the beauty of the frescoes painted by Michelangelo. Now, as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, there's a new way to absorb all these Sistine Chapel masterpieces from the comfort of plush theater seating.

(SOUNDBITE OF MULTIMEDIA SHOW, "UNIVERSAL JUDGMENT: MICHELANGELO AND THE SECRETS OF THE SISTINE CHAPEL")

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: The auditorium just off St. Peter's Square is packed with families and lots of teenagers. They've come to see "Michelangelo And The Secrets Of The Sistine Chapel," a surround-sound live show that highlights the Renaissance master's depiction of Genesis and the Last Judgment. The spectacle brings the audience right into the chapel and up close as the iconic image of God's outstretched finger is about to give life to Adam.

MARCO BALICH: We need to inspire younger generation about beauty and culture with their own language.

POGGIOLI: The show is the brainchild of Marco Balich, who has applied his know-how as director of many Olympic ceremonies. The show is one hour long, young people's maximum attention span in the era of social media, says Balich. And it uses high-definition projections of Michelangelo's frescoes.

BALICH: We project on the roof. We project on the sides. We project in front. We have actors coming from all over. We have people flying. We try to convey important messages delivered in a very, very understandable way. To help explain how the frescoes illustrate the biblical creation of the world, there are readings from Genesis.

(SOUNDBITE OF MULTIMEDIA SHOW, "UNIVERSAL JUDGMENT: MICHELANGELO AND THE SECRETS OF THE SISTINE CHAPEL")

SUSAN SARANDON: (Reading) In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And God said, let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light, and it was good.

POGGIOLI: Balich explains why he chose actress Susan Sarandon.

BALICH: Well, I wanted to have the voice of God to be a woman.

POGGIOLI: Vatican Museums gave the show their imprimatur, providing the high-definition projections of the frescoes and experts who closely followed the production to ensure no historical or artistic errors were made. Balich chuckles as he recalls meetings between Vatican art historians and top video game producers.

BALICH: People with all sorts of tattoos and earrings and stuff meeting with these very diligent and proper (laughter) experts. And so that was how to connect the two worlds. And that is ultimately what I was trying to do.

POGGIOLI: The finale offers more star power, a contemporary take on 13th-century sacred music produced and sung in Latin by Sting.

(SOUNDBITE OF MULTIMEDIA SHOW, "UNIVERSAL JUDGMENT: MICHELANGELO AND THE SECRETS OF THE SISTINE CHAPEL")

STING: (Singing in Latin).

POGGIOLI: Leaving the auditorium, Pete Stevens from Birmingham, England, says the show taught him a lot.

PETE STEVENS: To hear the story of each particular piece of artwork and then to have that put together with the dance and the performance and the immersive experience is wonderful - wonderful.

POGGIOLI: Maria Grazia Parta, a Roman teenager who has visited the real Sistine Chapel, can't hide her emotion.

MARIA GRAZIA PARTA: Maybe it's the most beautiful thing that I've ever seen in my life, really. It's very important for me, watching this and taking part of this event.

POGGIOLI: The show runs in Rome until next March. Talks are underway for bookings elsewhere in Europe and Latin America.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HANDEL'S 'MESSIAH' PART II")

TENEBRAE: (Singing) Hallelujah, Hallelujah...

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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