The city of Seattle is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the famous Pike Place Market this summer with the return of the famous 2001 Pigs on Parade event, in which 100 examples of porcine public art were installed around town.
Not wanting to miss out on the event, Seattle Opera had its master scenic artist Kitty Kavanaugh design Rusty, incorporating many of the same techniques that the company's scene shop employs to make "antique" statues and other set items.
Scenic Studios manager Michael Moore composed the short Italian aria, "La canzone del maiale" ("The Song of the Pig"), that Rusty sings, and persuaded baritone John Boehr to give the pig a voice.
The digital recording of Boehr's voice was then transferred to electronic circuitry concealed in Rusty's interior. An infrared sensor detects motion in front of Rusty's snout to activate the playback portion of the circuitry, and an electronic timer limits his performances to a maximum of one every five minutes.
"People may not be aware that our bag of 'backstage tricks' frequently includes electronic as well as mechanical wizardry," said Moore. "Rusty also has a concealed on/off switch, so that he can be allowed to take the occasional coffee break!"
Other creatures to emerge from Scenic Studios recently include Fafner the dragon, the biggest (in a literal sense) star of Seattle Opera's current Ring cycle.
On October 12, Rusty and the other 99 pigs will be auctioned. All proceeds will benefit the Market Foundation's efforts to fund Pike Place Market's services for low-income people.