Deck the Halls with Whatever You Can Find

I have to admit I have a penchant for exhilarating set design – the kind that stops in your tracks, turns cliches and tropes on their heads and makes you instantly feel as though you’ve entered another world entirely. Whether that’s a multitude of “found objects” lining the walls or chairs suspended in shadowplay, the inventive possibilities are truly endless. Just take a look at the sampling below of sets that pinprick the imagination with their visual intrigue:Trumpery

Trumpery. James Kronzer and Jeremy W. Foil.

matilda2

Matilda the Musical. Rob Howell

spring2

 Spring Awakening. Christine Jones.
Amonthinthecountry
A Month in the Country. Todd Rosenthal.
ragtime

World’s A Stage: Spotlight on France

When thinking of Mozart, the notion of early rock-star may not come to mind. A child prodigy, yes. A whiz on the ivories, no doubt. But emo-rock sex symbol? The creative team behind Mozart l’Opera Rock certainly thought so; they re-envisioned his life for the stage and took France by storm.

The musical, a mashup of new pop-rock and traditional Mozart compositions, premiered in late 2009. Though not as critically well-received as some other tuners out of France in the recent years(including Notre Dame de Paris, Le Petit Prince, and Le Roi Soleil) the show’s glittering reimagining of the 18th century composer’s life devloped a large fan following and went on to tour through Europe and the rest of France.  

Take a glance at this cheeky single that became one of the show’s most popular anthems. The song follows Wolfgang as he attempts to distribute his music and find a job in Paris. The lyrics dabble with sexual wordplay (somewhat evident, though undoubtedly less subtle, in the English subtitles available on this version). Enjoy this stroll down anachronism lane with Mr. Mozart himself.

 

World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Germany

You’ve never seen Shakespeare like this my friends. The Berliner Ensemble is reknowned for their aggressive and direct method of performing. Screaming at the audience? Yup. Mashing food into their face as they perform? Happens all the time. Breaking down that 4th wall? Each and every chance they get.

That’s why in 2009, when the group tackled Shakespeare’s 400 year old sonnets, the result was anything but traditional. This incredibly distinctive production from director Bob Wilson with music by Rufus Wainwright featured gender reversal, shadowplay, unforgettable makeup,  and of course nods to Brecht and Weill (of Threepenny Opera fame).

Take a look at how the Berliner Ensemble tackles the world of Shakespeare and instantly invites you to join them on their hallucinatory ride. Something about the coarseness of the performing style met with the Bard’s infamous words seems like the perfect oxymoron, and yet this production succeeds because it challenges any preexisting notions of Shakespeare’s work.

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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