World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Austria

As we continue around the globe, we find ourselves meeting up with some of the most incredible set design you’ve ever seen – in Bregenz, Austria.

The city is known for its long tradition of Opera on the Lake, productions that take place on a floating stage anchored in Lake Constance. The opera stages are built every two years and must house not only the performance space for the actors, but also the costume and dressing rooms, machine rooms, and the orchestra pit for the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

The set must strictly follow the following provisions:

  • The floating stage must be at least 2/3rds larger than a normal stage
  • The house seats 6,800. Everyone in the audience (even those in the nosebleed seats) must be able to see the stage action.
  • The set construction has to allow for quick and silent scene changes (there is no curtain)
  • The stage has to be able to survive extreme weather conditions during the two-year production runs including thunderstorms, harsh rains, and up to 20 inches of snow and below freezing temperatures
  • The set must weigh as little as possible. Designers have to consider that while concrete, brick and solid wood are weatherproof, they may prove too heavy to float

Take a look at these incredible stages through the years. Talk about a brilliant design team.

Die Zauberflote (Mozart) | 1985-1986

The Flying Dutchman | 1989-1990

A Masked Ball (Verdi) | 1999-2000

La Bohème | 2001-2002

West Side Story | 2003-2004

Tosca | 2007-2008

Aida | 2009-2010

André Chénier | 2011-2012

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33 thoughts on “World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Austria

  1. These sets are certainly impressively Dali-esque, but I’m pretty sure that if I were in the audience, I’d be wondering, in most cases, what on earth they had to do with the particular operas being performed!

    • I can’t speak to all of the operas, but I know at least for West Side Story I enjoyed the incorporation of the New York-inspired city scape against the surrounding movie reels (bringing together the stage and screen version of the piece). I similarly enjoyed La Boheme’s reinterpretation of the classic “arist’s life” by placing the action on the writer’s table itself.

  2. Wow! This could raise my love of opera to an even higher level. I thought the most incredible opera event I ever saw was in Santa Fe during the opera, “Orione.” As the mortal was being transformed into the constellation it happened that outside the open theater a flash of lightning lit the sky. This makes that pale by comparison – and now I want to plan a trip to Austria.

  3. Oh my god! I didn’t even know things like this even existed, let alone were possible and were actually being done and created! WOW! These sets are amazing! 🙂

  4. I wonder what they do with all of the materials when the production is done…Do they recycle them, or donate them, or are they just trucked off to a landfill, or what? Amazing.

  5. Thank you for reading and liking some of my posts. The photos here made me drool in pleasure of seeing the stage design, and doing theatrework again – ahh, that was so 25 years ago –
    love
    Leelah

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