Opera lighting

6,501 views
6,345 views

Published on

Published in: Education
0 Comments
3 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Views
Total views
6,501
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
25
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
86
Comments
0
Likes
3
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Opera lighting

  1. 1. Opera Lighting The ‘elite’ designers ? Pieter Ploeg Graduation dissertation Bachelor Programme Theatre theatre making, technical theatre arts de Theaterschool Amsterdam School of Arts
  2. 2. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? “A peculiar and creative energy flows from opera, an energy that I actually do not understand, moreover because the realisation of opera requires so much energy from all concerned personnel. It is fascinating to see that a total of two hundred operas on the world are performed again and again. People continuously watch Carmen, La Traviata and La Bohème, knowing that these pieces have been, are being, and will be performed in countless opera houses around the world. That gives me a strange, surrealistic consciousness of a desire on which I don’t actually have an answer.” Jean Kalman, summer 1999 1
  3. 3. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Preface & Acknowledgements First of all I simply love opera. To me opera is the most varied and versatile art form currently existing. It is the genre where music, spoken word, movement and image come together. A real ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ (collective artwork) as Richard Wagner calls it. Moreover, it is one of the few forms of contemporary theatre that can really captivate and fascinate me. Together with my interest in lighting design as part of the collaborative designing process in opera I felt the need to examine the world of lighting design in the working environment of contemporary opera. As a student in theatre technology I have many interests but most of them are not particularly found within the working field of modern theatre technology. Therefore I call myself a bit of an outsider when it comes to theatre technology, sound design and lighting design. Opera, however, makes me experience the magic of theatre and has a substantial influence on my cultural life. For this reason I experienced an energetic drive while performing certain parts of the research for this dissertation. I sincerely hope this dissertation is of any help to you in whatever form. The writing style is kept quite formal. I hereby thank Hugo van Uum for his helpful comments, Daphne Richter for her patience and her great advises, Jelmer Tuinstra for his small but wise additions, Mike van Galen for his encouragements, Reyer and Edith Ploeg for their compelling arguments and all of my friends for their interest. Pieter Ploeg, Amsterdam, Saturday, 12 January 2008 © Pieter Ploeg, Amsterdam, January 2008 2
  4. 4. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Contents Preamble ..........................................................................................................................5 Introduction......................................................................................................................6 Chapter 1. Research origin & framework .......................................................................7 1.01. Subject resources ..............................................................................................7 1.02. Graphic analyses .............................................................................................10 1.1. The thesis .............................................................................................................12 1.2. Framework of the research ...................................................................................13 1.2.1. Consulted literature.........................................................................................13 Clearly defined literary research............................................................................13 1.2.2. Interviews .......................................................................................................14 1.2.3. Target group ...................................................................................................14 1.2.4. Representativeness of the research................................................................14 1.2.5. The outcome of the research ..........................................................................15 Chapter 2. Brief history of opera ..................................................................................16 2.1. What is opera? ......................................................................................................16 2.2. Origin of opera ......................................................................................................17 2.3. Globalisation of opera ...........................................................................................18 Chapter 3. History of opera lighting design.................................................................20 3.1. The memoirs of Richard Wagner...........................................................................20 3.2. The answer of Adolphe Appia ...............................................................................21 Chapter 4. Opera lighting design..................................................................................23 4.1. Opera houses, a condition for another lighting method?........................................23 4.2. Lighting an opera, a play, or dance as regards content .........................................24 4.2.1. The soloist ......................................................................................................24 4.3. The role of music in the designing process............................................................25 4.4. The economical aspect .........................................................................................27 4.4.1. State support ..................................................................................................27 Germany ...............................................................................................................27 United States of America ......................................................................................28 Italy .......................................................................................................................29 The Netherlands ...................................................................................................29 4.4.2. Planning in advance .......................................................................................30 4.4.3. Repertory........................................................................................................30 4.5. The internationality of the work circumstances ......................................................31 4.6. Origin of the current lighting designer....................................................................31 Chapter 5. Analyses of the interviews..........................................................................33 5.1. Duane Schuler, USA; the economic conditions .....................................................34 5.1.1. Short biographical introduction........................................................................34 5.1.2. The interview ..................................................................................................34 5.1.3. Interview notes ...............................................................................................36 Time......................................................................................................................36 Equipment.............................................................................................................36 3
  5. 5. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Quality ..................................................................................................................36 5.2. John B. Read, Great Britain; the accurate preparation ..........................................37 5.2.1. Short biographical introduction........................................................................37 5.2.2. The interview ..................................................................................................37 5.2.3. Interview notes ...................................................................................................40 Time......................................................................................................................40 Equipment.............................................................................................................40 5.3.1. Short biographical introduction........................................................................42 5.3.2. The interview ..................................................................................................42 5.3.3 Interview notes ................................................................................................45 Internationality.......................................................................................................45 Genre....................................................................................................................45 5.4. Jean Kalman, France; nothing is equal .................................................................46 5.4.1. Short biographical introduction........................................................................46 5.4.2. The interview ..................................................................................................46 5.4.3. Interview notes ...............................................................................................49 Time......................................................................................................................49 Opera, the long planning .......................................................................................49 Conclusion .....................................................................................................................50 Investigation recommendation .....................................................................................53 Addendum......................................................................................................................54 Summary ........................................................................................................................55 Enumerative Bibliography ............................................................................................56 Literature ..................................................................................................................56 Websites...................................................................................................................57 Endnotes ........................................................................................................................58 4
  6. 6. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Preamble This dissertation is part of the graduating process of the Bachelor programme Theatre Making, technical theatre arts at the Amsterdam School of Arts. This process took over a year from the first preparation until the final result. The subject of this dissertation has been chosen in September 2006 in agreement with the dissertation supervisor. Between September 2006 and January 2007 a pre-research has been executed on the subject, which resulted in an action plan for the main research. The internal dissertation supervisor approved this action plan in January 2007. Beside the notes of the pre-research to a comprehensive subject and the action plan written in January 2007, this preface was the first part of this dissertation. The action plan has been used as a framework to define and refine the path to a fulfilling research in the planned time schedule. The final version of the action plan included a further investigation and plans for the representativeness of the research, a refined definition of the thesis and an improved version of the planning and schedule. In the introduction the subject of this dissertation will be explained, as well as the formulation of the thesis, the research methods and the consulted sources. This dissertation is written in English since the target group of this dissertation is international. To assist the author of this dissertation in the research process an external supervisor has been invited. The external supervisor needed to be someone from the field of study. Hugo van Uum, head of the lighting department of the Dutch national opera house in Amsterdam, Het Muziektheater1, was willing to assist the author during the research. As head of the lighting department he works with international lighting designers for opera and dance. Because of his working experience and practical knowledge he is able to reflect on the examined sources and help the author with helpful comments. 1 Het Muziektheater is the theatre of residence for De Nederlandse Opera (The Dutch Opera) and Het Nationale Ballet (the Dutch National Ballet). This means they do not just present their Amsterdam performances here, but they also produce them at Het Muziektheater. Gastprogrammering (the guest programming organisation of Het Muziektheater) invites companies and productions from around the world. Het Muziektheater is also the home base for the Holland Symfonia Orchestra.  http://www.het-muziektheater.nl 5
  7. 7. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Introduction The subject of the field of study for this dissertation was chosen due to an interest after having seen several opera shows in the opera house in Amsterdam where many lighting designers from abroad appeared in the credits being responsible for the lighting design. Therefore the first question that eventually led to the thesis was:  Why are almost all lighting designers for opera in the opera house in Amsterdam of foreign origin? This is an interesting fact because when one thinks of opera as being one of the most well financed theatrical art forms, it is expectable that well-known lighting designers work together with the famous directors and conductors contracted at the Amsterdam opera house. Why don’t the Dutch lighting designers that work in the largest national theatre -, dance - and musical productions also work in the national opera house? In this dissertation the research is specifically about the national opera house in Amsterdam, Het Muziektheater, not about De Nationale Reisopera, a considerably large Dutch opera company based in Enschede. De Nationale Reisopera contracted eight foreign lighting designers for twenty-one opera productions between 2004 and 2008, which is approximately 62%. 2 The biggest theatre production company in the Netherlands, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, contracted approximately 16%3 foreign lighting designers, although this company often works with resident designers. Even the difference between Toneelgroep Amsterdam and De Nationale Reisopera is already interesting, but this difference is not particularly interesting or surprising compared to the foreign character of Het Muziektheater. Het Muziektheater Amsterdam contracted approximately 95% foreign lighting designers. Notice that some designers returned more or less, or did multiple productions or cycles in a season, often together with specific directors. 2 Archive of De Nationale Reisopera, www.reisopera.nl 3 Archive of Toneelgroep Amsterdam, www.toneelgroepamsterdam.nl 6
  8. 8. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Chapter 1. Research origin & framework To give an example of the interesting fact of the internationality in opera as described in the introduction here follows a list of composers, directors and lighting designers and their nationality that composed, directed and designed operas that have been performed in the Muziektheater Amsterdam between 2000 and 2008. The table is coloured to highlight particular attention points. The author of this dissertation attended the productions in red. Coloured table cells are artists with the same nationality in one production. Black outlined cells are recurring designing duos. Underlined lighting designer have been interviewed during the research for this dissertation. 1.01. Subject resources 2000/2001 composer director lighting designer Capriccio Richard Strauss Andreas Homoki Franck Evin Król Roger Karol Szymanowski Johannes Schaaf Manfred Voss Il barbiere di Siviglia Gioacchino Rossini Dario Fo Dario Fo Peter Grimes Benjamin Britten Francesca Zambello Jennifer Tipton Le nozze di Figaro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Jürgen Flimm Franz Peter David 4 Tristan und Isolde Richard Wagner Alfred Kirchner Jean Kalman Jevgeni Onjegin Pjotr Iljitsj Tsjaikovski Johannes Schaaf Gérard Cleven L’incoronazione di Poppea Claudio Monteverdi Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Béatrice et Bénédict Hector Berlioz Tim Albery Jennifer Tipton Boris Godoenov Modest Petrovitsj Moesorgski Willy Decker David Finn Johnny & Jones Theo Loevendie Theu Boermans Gerhard Fischer 2001/2002 composer director lighting designer Alice in Wonderland Alexander Knaifel Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Jenufa Leoš Janáček Richard Jones Thomas Webster Lear Aribert Reimann Willy Decker Wolfgang Gussman 5 Giulio Cesare Georg Friedrich Händel Ursel and Karl-Ernst Herrmann Karl-Ernst Herrmann Salome Richard Strauss Harry Kupfer Wilfried Werz 6 Lohengrin Richard Wagner Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Dialogues des Carmélites Francis Poulenc Robert Carsen Jean Kalman Don Giovanni Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Alfred Kirchner Götz Loepelmann 7 Lulu Alban Berg Andreas Homoki Franck Evin Turandot Luciano Berio, G. Puccini Nikolaus Lehnhoff Duane Schuler L’elisir d’amore Gaetano Donizetti Guy Joosten Davy Cunningham 2002/2003 composer director lighting designer De zaak Makropulos Leoš Janáček Ivo van Hove Jan Versweyveld Madama Butterfly Giacomo Puccini Robert Wilson Robert Wilson De neus Dmitri Sjostakovitsj David Pountney Davy Cunningham La clemenza di Tito W.A. Mozart, M. Trojahn Pierre Audi Jan Versweyveld Tea Tan Dun Pierre Audi Jean Kalman 4 Head of the lighting department of the Staatsoper Berlin 5 Set designer, worked together with director Willy Decker and Friedewald Degen, ‘Beleuchtungsmeister’ from the Opera in Dresen 6 st Set designer, did the lighting together with director Harry Kupfer and Jan Koremans (1 lighter Muziektheater Amsterdam) 7 st Set designer, worked together on the lighting with Jack de Feber, 1 lighter of the Muziektheater Amsterdam 7
  9. 9. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Fidelio Ludwig van Beethoven Robert Carsen Peter van Praet Macbeth Giuseppe Verdi Luc Bondy Dominique Bruguière Die Zauberflöte Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Die Soldaten Bernd Alois Zimmermann Willy Decker Wolfgang Gussmann 8 Euryanthe Carl Maria von Weber David Pountney Wolfgang Göbbel Le Balcon Peter Eötvös Stanislas Nordey Stéphanie Daniel 2003/2004 composer director lighting designer Les Troyens Hector Berlioz Pierre Audi Peter van Praet La bohème Giacomo Puccini Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Samson Georg Friedrich Händel Gerrit Timmers Paul van Laak Iolanta Pjotr Iljitsj Tsjaikovski Ivo van Hove Jan Versewyveld Der Rosenkavalier Richard Strauss Brigitte Fassbaender, Willy Decker Hans Toelstede Idomeneo Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Ursel and Karl-Ernst Herrmann Karl-Ernst Herrmann 9 Peter Grimes Benjamin Britten Francesca Zambello Jennifer Tipton Die Walküre Richard Wagner Pierre Audi Wolfgang Göbbel Don Carlo Giuseppe Verdi Willy Decker Hans Toelstede Rêves d’un Marco Polo Claude Vivier Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Raaff Robin de Raaff, Janine Brogt Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Writing to Vermeer Louis Andriessen Saskia Boddeke Michael Simon 2004/2005 composer director lighting designer Siegfried Richard Wagner Pierre Audi Wolfgang Göbbel Mefistofele Arrigo Boito Graham Vick Matthew Richardson Rigoletto Giuseppe Verdi Monique Wagemakers Reinier Tweebeeke Lucio Silla Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Jossi Wieler, Sergio Morabito David Finn Tea Tan Dun Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Götterdämmerung Richard Wagner Pierre Audi Wolfgang Göbbel Norma Vincenzo Bellini Guy Joosten Davy Cunningham Die tote Stadt Erich Wolfgang Korngold Willy Decker Wolfgang Göbbel Das Rheingold Richard Wagner Pierre Audi Wolfgang Göbbel L’amour des trois oranges Sergej Prokofiev Laurent Pelly Joël Adam Rage d’amours Rob Zuidam Guy Cassiers Peter Missotten 2005/2006 composer director lighting designer Das Rheingold Richard Wagner Pierre Audi Wolfgang Göbbel Die Walküre Richard Wagner Pierre Audi Wolfgang Göbbel Siegfried Richard Wagner Pierre Audi Wolfgang Göbbel 10 Götterdämmerung Richard Wagner Pierre Audi Wolfgang Göbbel Tamerlano Georg Friedrich Händel Pierre Audi Matthew Richardson Alcina Georg Friedrich Händel Pierre Audi Peter van Praet The Bassarids Hans Werner Henze Peter Stein Duane Schuler Het Sluwe Vosje Leoš Janáček Richard Jones Matthew Richardson Cavalleria rusticana | Pagliacci R. Leoncavallo, P. Mascagni Guy Joosten Davy Cunningham Elektra Richard Strauss Willy Decker Hans Toelstede Simon Boccanegra Giuseppe Verdi Peter Mussbach Alexander Koppelmann After Life Michel van der Aa Michel van der Aa Mark Truebridge Lady Macbeth from Mtsensk Dmitri Sjostakovitsj Martin Kušej Reinhard Traub 8 Set designer, worked together with director Willy Decker and Friedewald Degen, ‘Beleuchtungsmeister’ from the Opera in Dresen 9 Karl-Ernst Herrmann is director and set designer. 10 Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried & Götterdämmerung are the four parts of Der Ring des Nibelungen and could be considered as one production. 8
  10. 10. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Il barbiere di Siviglia Gioacchino Rossini Dario Fo Dario Fo 2006/2007 composer director lighting designer Capriccio Richard Strauss Andreas Homoki Franck Evin Così fan tutte Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Jossi Wieler, Sergio Morabito David Finn Don Giovanni Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Jossi Wieler, Sergio Morabito David Finn 11 Le nozze di Figaro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Jossi Wieler, Sergio Morabito David Finn Tannhäuser Richard Wagner Nikolaus Lehnhoff Duane Schuler Madama Butterfly Giacomo Puccini Robert Wilson Robert Wilson Hercules Georg Friedrich Händel Luc Bondy Dominique Bruguière Die Gezeichneten Franz Schreker Martin Kušej Reinhard Traub Wagner Dream Jonathan Harvey Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Doctor Atomic John Adams Peter Sellars James F. Ingalls 2007/2008 composer director lighting designer L’Orfeo Claudio Monteverdi Pierre Audi Jean Kalman L’incoronazione di Poppea Claudio Monteverdi Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Il ritorno d´Ulisse in patria Claudio Monteverdi Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Madrigalen Claudio Monteverdi Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Lucia di Lammermoor Gaetano Donizetti Monique Wagemakers Reinier Tweebeeke Daphne Richard Strauss Peter Konwitschny Peter Konwitschny 12 Castor et Pollux Jean-Philippe Rameau Pierre Audi Jean Kalman Die Entführung aus dem Serail Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Johan Simons Marc Van Renesse Giulio Cesare Georg Friedrich Händel Ursel and Karl-Ernst Herrmann Karl-Ernst Herrmann 13 Kát´a Kabanová Leoš Janáček Willy Decker Hans Toelstede Un ballo in maschera Giuseppe Verdi Claus Guth Olaf Winter Tristan and Isolde Richard Wagner Alfred Kirchner Jean Kalman Saint François d´Assise Olivier Messiaen Pierre Audi Jean Kalman La Commedia Louis Andriessen Hal Hartley Scott Zielinski The international diversity of this list was the origin of the motivation to perform research on this subject. In the following graph the percentage of nationalities working in the opera house in Amsterdam between 2000 and 2008 is presented. Many of the listed productions are reproductions and have not been not analysed for the graphics. Some of the lighting designers are actually set designers or heads of lighting departments and where also not considered as lighting designers. 11 Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni & Le nozze di Figaro where produced as one cycle around librettist Da Ponte. 12 Together with Bernd Hagemeyer, ‘Beleuchtungsmeister’ from the Opera house in Essen, Germany. 13 Karl-Ernst Herrmann is director and set designer. 9
  11. 11. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? 1.02. Graphic analyses Composers (Language of the opera) Directors (country of origin) Interesting but expectable result in this graph is the amount of German opera and opera directors. In spite of the amount of Italian operas there has only been a very small amount of Italian directors in Amsterdam while, as visible in the above table, Dutch directors direct many of the Dutch operas and tend to work with Dutch lighting designers. Pierre Audi14 directed approximately 30% of the production in these eight seasons, and worked in approximately 57% of these productions together with Jean Kalman from France, and in approximately 29% together with Wolfgang Goebbel from Germany. The nationalities of lighting designer’s shows an interesting shifting, although one can criticize these statistics by stating that not all lighting designers in the above list are working as freelance lighting designer. Some work as lighting chief in opera houses outside the Netherlands and come to Amsterdam to reproduce the design, originally made by himself or herself or the director. 14 Pierre Audi is the artistic director of De Nederlandse Opera. 10
  12. 12. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Lighting designers (country of origin) Suddenly the United States of America is on the third place of the list. Here we can see the effect of the globalisation of opera together with the economical and technical development, the age of opera culture in the United States and their market of technology. Most operas can be considered as European and their directors still live in Europe. Lighting designers however, are further away from the opera itself and more often have their origin in countries with rather western culture and modern technology. More about the origin of the current lighting designer in Chapter 4.6. Origin of the current lighting designer. 11
  13. 13. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? 1.1. The thesis The thesis of this dissertation describes the direction of the research. However, it is not suitable as a title for the paper. The question ‘What are you writing a dissertation about?’ would be answered with the following answer: “A research into lighting designers for opera and their working method and cultural background, in comparison with other lighting designers within the opera genre as well as in other theatre genres.” The thesis is defined in two core enquiries:  What is the distinction between the working methods of a lighting designer within certain performance genres?  Who is the lighting designer for opera; what are his/her specialities, (cultural) backgrounds, working methods and work circumstances? Two additional sub questions are added in order to give a more specific direction to the research:  What effect does the cultural background of a lighting designer have on the working method or the design as regards to the content?  Is there a fundamental cultural distinction traceable in the work of e.g. a German lighting designer compared to a French lighting designer? 12
  14. 14. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? 1.2. Framework of the research The content of this paper is based on a two-method way of research. One source of information for this research is existing literature, partially written on the subject. The second source is four interviews with four lighting designers. The main purpose of the interviews is to create a divers overview of practical experiences and profound methods from contemporary working situations in lighting design for opera. Analyses of these interviews will lead to an image from which conclusions on the core investigation questions can be defined. The literature research will be used to connect the interviews to older guidelines and predefined working methods, formulated by lighting designers in the consulted literature. The method of assimilating the aggregated information is further explained in chapter 1.2.5. The outcome of the research. 1.2.1. Consulted literature Most of the literature consulted are handbooks and opera-/theatre magazines, containing information about the core questions of the research. A striking observation while performing the literary research is that most of the handbook and essays written on the subject are outdated. Most literature is written in the late twentieth century, when the profession of lighting designer had its enormous globalisation. More about this globalisation in chapter 2.3. Globalisation of opera A lot has changed in the opera lighting branch since the late sixties, the time from which the first handbooks and literature originate. In the time of the research there was hardly any modern literature available on the subject of this dissertation. The consulted literature can nevertheless be considered as valuable, as most of the literary information has particular equalities with the outcome of the interviews and the consulted magazines and articles. A certain timelessness has been discovered in the main literary sources. Clearly defined literary research In the search for information a clear definability is used to decrease the literary research area to a few specific items. The selected pieces from handbooks on lighting design had to contain a specific classification in designing for multiple theatre genres, with a particular view on designing for opera. Aiming to realize a collection of usable information several keynotes where used while conducting the literary research. To give an example a few of these keynotes will be mentioned:  Lighting design  Opera lighting design  The opera stage  Lighting techniques  Design problems: lighting musicals, ballet and opera  Lighting practice 13
  15. 15. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? 1.2.2. Interviews The most significant research area of this dissertation is four interviews with international lighting designers. This area is of a significant value for the research because the opinions and stories of contemporary lighting designers are valuable in the representativeness of the research. The collection of lighting designers was arranged by taking into account the origin, experience and internationality of the lighting designer. These interviews will serve as references for the other chapters in this dissertation. The lighting designers interviewed are:  Duane Schuler, United States of America  John B. Read, Great Britain  Reinier Tweebeeke, the Netherlands  Jean Kalman, France Biographies of these lighting designers can be found in Chapter 5. Analyses of the interviews. The representativeness of the collection of lighting designers is explained in 1.2.4. Representativeness of the research. The interviews with these lighting designers will be analysed in chapter 4. The atmosphere of the interviews will be described, as well as the author’s impression of the characteristic way of thinking of the lighting designers interviewed 1.2.3. Target group Target group of this dissertation is lighting designers for opera, students in lighting design and students in opera or theatre technology. Lighting designers for opera could use this paper to get a view on the work of their colleagues and the conclusions of the research it may bring. Students in lighting design, opera or theatre technology can find a view on the lighting designer and lighting design for contemporary opera. When lighting for opera, a lighting designer could encounter a difference between working in other genres and particular difficulties in the work circumstances. This dissertation tries to focus on these differences and to put them in the correct context, complemented with practical experiences, opinions and meanings of lighting designers from the field of study. A certain foreknowledge of opera and or theatre lighting is demanded. The author of this dissertation has taken the view that the future reader of this dissertation has knowledge of theatre, opera and lighting in order to put the content in the correct context. Nevertheless a historical framework of opera and opera lighting will be given to put the interview analyses into a broader historical perspective. 1.2.4. Representativeness of the research The research will concentrate on published literature and the work and working method of four international lighting designers. It will not be representative for lighting design or lighting designers for opera globally and/or in general. Moreover, the four interviewed lighting designers do not represent their country; conclusions based on the interviews will not be representative for any country. Nevertheless a certain image of the cultural background of the examined lighting designers will be outlined in order to highlight a characteristic difference between nationalities, since during the research period and the interviews a characteristic difference was actually traceable between the four lighting designers and their method of working. 14
  16. 16. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? This dissertation will not contain much statistic information because it has another purpose. The results of the investigation do have need of further more statistic research which will be further elucidated in the Investigation recommendation This dissertation will highlight the differences and distinctions found during the research. In the conclusion of this dissertation the value of these differences and distinctions will be debated and reflected on the outcome of the interviews. The purpose of accentuating the differences and distinctions between opera lighting and other lighting methods is to show the nuances in current working methods and designing for opera. 1.2.5. The outcome of the research The gathered information from the research will be used in two parts of this dissertation. Chapter 2, 3 and 4 of this dissertation create a framework of the history of opera lighting design and contemporary working methods of opera designers and distinctions found in the literary sources. In Chapter 5. Analyses of the interviews the interviews will be analysed in order to reflect this mostly outdated literary information to contemporary work experience and opinions. The main points of research are the interviews. Therefore the information gained from the interviews will have more significance in the composition of the conclusions. 15
  17. 17. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Chapter 2. Brief history of opera In order to assist the reader of this dissertation putting the information in the next chapters in the correct historical context, a brief history of opera and an explanation of the globalisation of opera are given in this chapter. Opera is a theatre genre with its origin in the European renaissance and baroque, but the main and currently most performed operas were written in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. These days several new operas have their opening night in opera houses all over the world, but the famous eighteenth and nineteenth century operas are still in favour. 2.1. What is opera? Opera is a form of theatre where the drama is conveyed through music and singing. The word opera means “works” in Italian, from the plural form of the Latin word Opus, which means work or labour. The words of an opera are known as the libretto, which literally means “little book”. Some composers have written their own libretti; others have worked in close collaboration with their librettists, e.g. MozartI with Lorenzo da PonteII. Opera has much in common with spoken theatre such as scenery, costumes and acting. Opera is generally distinguished from other dramatic forms by the importance of the singing and vocal techniques. The libretto may be serious or comic, although neither form necessarily excludes elements of the other. Opera differs from operetta in its musical complexity and usually in its subject matter. It differs also from oratorio, which is customarily based on a religious subject and is performed without scenery, costumes, or stage action. Although both opera and operetta may have spoken dialogue, in opera the dialogue usually has musical accompaniment, such as the harpsichord continuo in the operas of Mozart and RossiniIII. „Opera is an extended dramatic composition, in which all parts are sung to instrumental accompaniment, that usually includes arias, choruses, and recitatives, and that sometimes includes 15 ballet.” 16 „Opera: Dramatic work in one or more acts that is set to music for singers an instrumentalists.” As a production, opera is often called a collective artwork (‘Gesamtkunstwerk’), a combination of theatre, dance and music. More about opera as a collective artwork can be found in Chapter 3.1. The memoirs of Richard Wagner. Opera is not just a music genre, beautifully phrased by the Britisch poet W.H. Auden: "If music in general is an imitation of history, opera in particular is an imitation of human wilfulness; it is rooted in the fact that we not only have feelings but insist upon having them at whatever cost to ourselves… The quality common to all the great operatic roles, e.g., Don Giovanni, Norma, Lucia, Tristan, Isolde, Brünnhilde, is that each of them is a passionate and wilful state of being. In real life 17 they would all be bores, even Don Giovanni." 15 Definition from online dictionary on http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/opera 16 th Definition from Concise Oxford Dictionary – 11 ed, Oxford University Press, 2006 17 W.H. Auden, Notes on Music and Opera, The Dyer’s hand, Vintage Books, 1968, page 470-471 16
  18. 18. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? 2.2. Origin of opera In the late sixteenth century a group of wealthy people in the city of Florence, Italy, invented opera by trying to reproduce ancient Greek dramas. Sixteenth-century Europe was experiencing the Renaissance. The sixteenth century Italians began to experiment by reading the plays aloud and adding a few musical chords as accompaniment. This practice led to singing the so-called “recitativo” in Italian, or recitative in English. Over time, the music grew more complex and musical professionals became interested in this combination of music and drama. The first opera was probably a recitative work titled Dafne written in 1594 or 1597 by Jacopo Peri18. The score of Peri‘s opera has never been found, it’s existing is recovered from comments in ancient literature about the performances of Dafne. The first documented opera is called L’Orfeo and is written by the Italian composer Claudio MonteverdiIV. He expanded the existing form and added arias to the music that allowed the singers to express the emotions of their character. In the same time one started to adapt the venues to the opera genre. The first ‘opera house’, a theatre venue specifically built to host opera, was built in Venice, the Teatro San Cassiano.19 It opened in 1637. Later, other composers added chorus parts, dances, instrumental interludes, etcetera, and opera continued to grow and change. The opera popularity quickly spread to Germany, France, England, Russia and many other countries in Europe. Other composers, from Germany and Austria wrote opera’s in Italian, because opera was considered as an Italian art form. Eventually they wrote opera’s in their own languages. By the late nineteenth century, composers like Guiseppe VerdiV in Italy, and Richard Wagner (see next chapter) in Germany, were writing operas of tremendous length, with music and stories that demanded huge, expensive productions, mature singers with big voices, large choruses, large orchestras and complicated scenery and costumes. European immigrants brought opera to the United States of America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most of today's famous and popular operas were written in the eighteenth and nineteenth century by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, La clemenza di Tito and Die Zauberflöte), Giacomo PucciniVI (La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Turandot), Guiseppe Verdi (Rigoletto, La Traviata, Simon Boccanegra, Il Trovatore, Don Carlo, Aida and Macbeth) and Richard Wagner (Der fliegende Holländer, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Der Ring des Nibelungen (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung, and Parsifal). 18 Jacopo Peri (August 20, 1561 – August 12, 1633) was an Italian composer and singer of the transitional period between the Renaissance and Baroque styles, and is often called the inventor of opera. He wrote the first work to be called an opera today, Dafne (around 1597), and also the first opera to have survived to the present day, Euridice (1600). 19 The Teatro San Cassiano or Teatro di San Cassiano in Venice was the first public opera house when it opened in 1637. It was a wooden structure built with financial backing of the Venetian Tron family. It was considered 'public' as an impresario, or general manager, for the paying public, directed it. […] Towards the end of the seventeenth century Venice became the opera capital of the world as another ten opera houses opened. The last performances in the Teatro San Cassiano were held in 1807 and it was demolished in 1812. 17
  19. 19. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? 2.3. Globalisation of opera The globalisation of opera is one of the most significant causes of the international character of contemporary opera. In the last hundred years globalisation of the world has had its effect on almost everything. States, economies and societies are increasingly integrated; goods, capital, humans and cultural objects link everyone in a global system. Due to this globalisation in the last century and the industrial revolution it is much cheaper and easier to travel international these days. This information can be considered as required foreknowledge to understand the remarkable internationalisation of opera. The globalisation of opera is a logical tendency of the market taking some facts in account. There is a small selection of operas performed in not more then a thousand opera houses, festivals and venues all over the world20. The artists working in these productions, and especially the singers, come from a small selection of the world’s best conservatories and art schools. There is no language barrier in opera because of the musical accompaniment. Operas, although originally composed for a national audience (especially the famous early twentieth century ones), can be performed with subtitles in every language, and the music makes it accessible for every nationality. Only a top selection of singers sing the same operas all over the world. Thirty years ago it was able to mount a production with e.g. only German singers in the leading roles. That has become impossible to arrange, due to the globalisation of the working field of the artists. It could even be impossible to mount a national production, because artists with the required quality might not be available in the country itself, because they are studying or working abroad. Moreover, managements find it cheaper to borrow a piece or a singer from abroad than arranging something at home. For example, it is cheaper and easier to hire a singer from a foreign country who knows the piece then to pay a domestic singer to practice and study a piece. Although this may sound as if artistic decisions are based on financial circumstances it often improves the quality of the production. In a globalizing western society the status of famous opera singers travels far ahead of them and when travel costs decrease it is easier to attract and contract the international ‘stars’. Shortly after the singers, the directors started travelling in the nineteen-seventieths and nineteen-eightieths. With them came designers, choreographers, production teams, and etcetera. We can conclude that in contemporary opera the artistic direction can always attract quality by selecting the best artist of the world for a production. Opera is the only theatrical art form with such a global character. Dance has become very international as well but theatre productions currently don’t travel that much compared to dance and opera. This is because mainly because of the language of the play. Richard Fairman, contributor of the Britisch newspaper The Financial Times wrote an article in 2003 called Opera: one size fits all wherein he asked the readers: „Does it matter? Surely al this co-operation is simply a sign of the world getting smaller, of opera companies making sensible decisions about sharing costs, of audiences willingly partaking of an art form that transcends national boundaries? Is this not a worldwide common market that many would like to see function as effectively when it comes to trade of other goods, such as food and 21 medicine?” Some people say that contemporary performances are retreated to a neutral middle ground. They argue that the composers of the great works wrote for specifically national styles of singing and orchestral playing and their librettists generally expected that the performers would be fluent in the language they were singing and that audiences 20 There are 980 Companies, Festivals and Venues worldwide according to the database of operabase.com 21 Opera: one size fits all, Richard Fairman, Financial Times, July 4, 2003 18
  20. 20. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? would understand it. However this is a very interesting discussion it won’t be part of this dissertation. To understand the rest of the chapters we can conclude that all national boundaries disappeared in the global world of opera. There is a worldwide collaboration of opera companies, opera houses, opera singers, directors, designers, and etcetera. More information about the specific value of this internationality can be found in chapter 4.5. The internationality of the work circumstances. As an example of the global division of opera companies here is a map of opera companies, festivals and venues all over the world in 2007: Image I, Global opera activity,  www.operabase.com As we can see, opera is very concentrated in the content where it was born, Europe. Here is a map of the opera activity in Europe: Image II, European opera activity,  www.operabase.com 19
  21. 21. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Chapter 3. History of opera lighting design In this chapter a framework will be created to understand the results from the research on opera lighting design in the correct historical context. The actual history and founding of lighting design goes back a hundred years to the time of Richard Wagner, Adolphe Appia and Edward Gordon Craig22. It is a profession totally depending on the development of artificial light and the invention of oil lamps, gas lamps and eventually electrical light. Although one used fire torches in ancient Greek already and chandeliers in the medieval theatres, lighting is one of the youngest theatre professions. Scenic design is a much older profession. Since the old Greeks often performed in sunlight they invented advanced scenery to improve and decorate the visual part of the performance, in the renaissance further developed by Wagner, Appia and Craig among others. Lighting design followed this development in the renaissance. 3.1. The memoirs of Richard Wagner The history of opera lighting design goes back to the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the ideas of Richard WagnerVII brought about a tremendous progress in the opera development. Wagner was the founder of the Gesamtkunstwerk (collective artwork), the collaboration of different art forms like music, architecture, poetry, dance and theatre. He tried to reach ‘new poetical heights’ by bringing all disciplines together, and, with that, accomplish the ‘ideal medium, the highest artistic inspiration’. He was the first composer who added accurate notes on scene changes, effects, and light atmospheres in the score. An example of this can be found in the lighting prescriptions added for the Venusberg-Szene (Venus mountain scene) in the opera Tannhäuser.VIII, “Venus should lie in a ‘soft red dusk’, the entire foreground had to be lit with a ‘clean reddish light, penetrating from beneath, through which the emerald-green from the waterfall with a foamy kind of white strongly enters; the far background with its sea-character is illuminated with a glorified blue”.23 The possibility to shape the external appearance of illumination with light was already discovered by Wagner in 1865. In a message about a music school in Munich, Germany he said that the king, a “in this profession excellent experienced architect” (Gottfried Semper24) was set to the task to design a theatre space in which from on the one hand the ‘aesthetic unsightly and disturbing visibility of the orchestra’ could be avoided and on the other hand, particularly through invention of lighting installations, through which the scenography could be elevated to a real picturesque artistic significance, the theatrical presentation itself could be ‘elevated to her absent art competence’. With these words lighting design is still not an autonomous profession; it is still a part of the scenography, but her significance for the scenographic activity is stated very clear. To avoid the “total distraction of the face of reality which surrounds the spectators in the auditorium” Wagner introduced the darkening of the auditorium and hid the orchestra partly under the stage. Owing of this the definition of sight substantially 22 Edward Gordon Craig (16 January 1872 – 29 July 1966), sometimes known as Gordon Craig, was a English modernist theatre practitioner; he worked as an actor, producer, director and scenic designer, as well as developing an influential body of theoretical writings. 23 „Licht im Theater“, Chapter 14 – Carl-Friedrich Baumann. 24 Gottfried Semper (November 29, 1803 – May 15, 1879) was a German architect, art critic, and professor of architecture, who designed and built the Semper Oper in Dresden between 1838 and 1841. In 1849 he took part in the May Uprising in Dresden and was put on the government's wanted list. Semper fled first to Zürich and later to London. Later he returned to Germany after the 1862 amnesty granted to the revolutionaries. 20
  22. 22. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? changed. The artistic image is much better recognizable from a darkened space. This had a humungous positive effect on the developmental progress of lighting design. The progresses theoretically demanded by Wagner were far ahead of the possibilities in stage- and lighting technique. He overestimated the conditions that had to be available for the fulfilling of his performances. Moreover, the preparations weren’t so far that the already available material could be stowed. 3.2. The answer of Adolphe Appia Adolphe AppiaIX studied music in Switzerland and came into contact with the musical dramas of Richard Wagner, and his theoretical writings. He was deeply impressed but recognized that the usual mounting (including Wagner’s) of the operas did not properly embody Wagner’s theories. After years of thought, he published The Staging of Wagner’s Musical Dramas in 1895, Music and Stage Setting in 1899 and The Work of Living Art in 1921. In these works, he set forth ideas about theatrical production that were eventually accepted almost everywhere. Appia concluded that stage presentation involves three conflicting visual elements: the moving three-dimensional actor; the perpendicular scenery and the horizontal floor. He recommended replacing the painted two-dimensional settings, according to Appia one of the major causes of disunity, by three-dimensional units like steps, ramps, platforms, etcetera. Herewith he enhanced the actor’s movement and provided a transition from the horizontal floor to the upright scenery. In 1910 Appia designed the first theatre of modern times to be built without a proscenium arch and with a completely open stage, the Festspielhaus in Hellerau, Germany. In the 1920 Appia staged Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde in Milan, Italy and two pars of the Ring-cycle in Basel, Switzerland. His work was not received very positive as his ideas were quite revolutionary. Above all, however, Appia emphasised the role of light in fusing all of the visual elements into a unified whole. Since to him light was the visual counterpart of music, which changes from moment to moment in response to shifting moods, emotions, and action, Appia wished to orchestrate and manipulate light as carefully as a musical score. Attempts to implement this theory, which requires control over the distribution, brightness, and colour of light, have led to much of modern stage-lighting practice. Appia also argued that artistic unity requires that one person be in control of all of the elements of the production. Thus, his ideas strengthened the role of the director.25 Considering this we might call Adolphe Appia the founder if the profession lighting designer, although, in his age, it was a task of the director. As he was inspired by Wagner, and theatrical plays missed the advancement that was taking place in opera, due to Wagner, he mostly worked within opera. Therefore we might note the first historical distinction in lighting for opera and lighting for theatre, as opera functioned as the main inspiration for Appia to initiate a first ideas on lighting design. Lighting for Appia was the visual counterpart of music, and in the quotation below we can find the first terminology used on describing the connection between lighting and music; Music: Shifting moods, emotions and action in the musical piece. Light: Changes in the distribution, brightness and colour of light in lighting. Nevertheless it took over sixty years before Appia’s visionary ideas where used in the Bayreuth stage actuality. He had a profound formulation on the role and importance of lighting in the total stage production; “lighting does not create a factual activity on our 25 History of the Theatre, chapter 17, Oscar G Brocket, Page 413 21
  23. 23. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? contemporary stage; her only purpose is to make the scenery visible.” The directions of light had to illuminate certain painted parts of the scenographic environment; “this task has nothing in common with the acknowledged role of light, she even contradicts her.” Every aim to make a factual activity with light in the scenic system leads to the expectation of a transition in the scenery. According to Appia lighting arrangements are only there to illuminate the stage and scenery. On the other hand Appia also expresses lighting as a, apart from her unordered activity for the enlightening of dark spaces, true and al-powerful representation force. The notion ‘representation force’ is explained in comparison with music: „What music is in a score is lighting in the empire of representation: the expressionistic element in opposition to the elements or signs of orientation and indication. Light can, just as music, only 26 express what is in the ‘inner being of apparition’.” To conclude this chapter we can state a few interesting items in the history of lighting design for opera. From the operas and memoirs of Wagner and the theoretical ideas of Appia and Edward Gordon Craig, who came up with similar theories and worked with Appia, we can trace a small equality as regards designing in the founding of lighting design for theatre and opera. Although very little lighting devices were available in the early twentieth century a particular direction in lighting design existed from the beginning. Lighting has been a practical solution, but due to the work of Wagner, Appia and Craig it became an art form. The technical development and invention of new lamps and trustworthy electricity brought new possibilities to the stages of the early twentieth century opera houses. From there lighting design developed to the current profession. Until the nineteen seventies lighting mainly remained a task of the director or scenographer. In chapter 4.6. Origin of the current lighting designer a further explanation will be given on the developments in the last fifty years. 26 Adolphe Appia, quoted in Licht im Theater, Carl-Friedrich Baumann, Chapter 14 22
  24. 24. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? Chapter 4. Opera lighting design In this chapter the particular properties of lighting design for opera will be explained. In many lighting handbooks the differences in lighting design per genre are explained by dividing the working methods and circumstances in different chapters. A remarkable equality has been found in the result of the literary research. To compare the opinions stated in the consulted literature and interviews many quotations will be used in this chapter in order to clarify the results of the literary research. „Opera is about music, theatre, singing, acting and dance, and as such lighting design for opera is typically a combination of theatre, dance and musical theatre lighting techniques. Fortunately for the lighting designer, and due to the need for good acoustics, most professional operas take place in well designed theatre or concert halls.” […] “Opera lighting must light the singers for clarity, the dancers and chorus for interest and the scenery for atmosphere. Operas may be simplistic and straight forward, or highly complex and stylized. It is not unusual for ‘visions’ to appear from out of ‘nowhere’. Nor is it unusual to have the ‘devil’ frequently appear or disappear throughout the course of the 27 production. The opera lighting designer must be ready for this and for much more.” A few framework issues are of great significance; the economical conditions such as the repertory or commercial system, the financial possibilities and the international character. One of the many mentioned distinctions between opera lighting and theatre or dance lighting is the specific collaborative character of the genre. As Bill Williams states, opera is a combination of many theatrical disciplines and therefore a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, or collective artwork. One could say that this continues to affect in the lighting. Is opera lighting a combination of lighting for theatre, music, singing, and acting and dancing? According to Bill Willams it is: “Lighting design for opera is typically a combination of theatre, dance and musical theatre lighting techniques”. On the other hand there are a few things which really distinct opera from dance and theatre. It starts with the venue where it is performed. Opera generally needs large stages and is therefore almost always performed in specially build opera houses. These opera houses program, next to opera, almost only classic or modern ballet, more seldom dance or even less; theatre. Is this the big difference? 4.1. Opera houses, a condition for another lighting method? Opera houses have one important property that distinct them from theatres; their scale. They have a much bigger physical acting area and therefore a consequent need for more powerful instruments. The scenery is mostly much bigger, and often a production has several sets that are placed on side stages for different scenes. The challenges coming with this fact are a longer distance between audience and stage, higher bridges, wider lighting angels, etc. There is a huge orchestra pit that has to be conquered and there can be large groups of people on the stage. As such, opera may also be performed in large concert halls, arenas and stadiums. One could question why opera has this unique elite rank in the world of theatre venues, by having the opportunity to have especially designed venues with multiple large stages. In the history of opera this is easy to explain. Opera has simply grown to an elitist form of musical theatre, with usually a high-class rich audience. In every opera country the genre is very well financed by governmental, commercial or private funds. Tickets are mostly expensive, and the look-and-feel of the theatre is usually quit luxurious. The possibility to have a lot of financial goods at ones disposal has led to the enlargement of sceneries, stages and thereby the opera houses. This enlargement created the expectation of larger stages and nowadays opera just doesn’t really fit in the regular 27 Opera Lighting - Applied Design Methods, Bill Williams 23
  25. 25. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? venues anymore. Having opera demanding these large scales and therewith gaining a certain monopoly profit on the market is a logical consequence. A huge difference in lighting for opera is the economical condition of an opera production; is the house stagione or in repertory? This will be elucidated in Chapter 4.4. The economical aspect. 4.2. Lighting an opera, a play, or dance as regards content In consulted literature on lighting design for opera recurring points are the role of music in the designing process (see Chapter 4.3. The role of music in the designing process), the position of the soloist on the stage, the presence of large groups of people and large sceneries (the scale) and a certain style of great gestures. These facts outline some main differences between opera and theatre or dance, of course always depending on the production. These scale issues and great gestures are of course only possible with the large financial conditions within opera and the liberal standard in which designers create. A few things can be marked as significant for a typical opera design, like the soloist and the music. There have been standards in opera lighting; traditional opera lighting in the United States around 1950 consisted of footlights, border lights and floodlights in the wings. There were about four or five basic colour circuits (blue for the night scenes and pink or amber or white for daylight). Joel E. Rubin, author of Theatrical Lighting Practice wrote in 1968 that for modern opera lighting it was the problem of the lighting designer to ask himself several questions: 1. What is the mood of the opera at any given moment? Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, for example, is comic opera and the lighting needs heightened colour and brightness. Don Giovanni, on the other hand, is a dramatic tragic-comic plot, which requires more sombre colours and less intensity. 2. What naturalistic effects are required by the libretto (effects of nature and artificial light sources)? How can they be utilized most dramatically? 3. How can soloists be pictorially illuminated and the chorus presented in the most effectively modelled visual compositions? The centre of interest should be the only centre of visual attention. Certainly a flat, evenly illuminated total stage area during an intimate duet is out of place. 4.2.1. The soloist One of the main differences between opera and theatre is the position of the soloist. The soloist in opera is the singer, alone on the stage singing an aria, together with an antagonist singing a duet, or guided by a choir. The singer alone on the stage singing an aria usually needs good visibility to see the conductor. The position of this singer on the stage is depending on the staging of the director but is mostly located downstage centre, close to the orchestra to attract all attention to the singer, but most important, to make it easier for the singer to hear the music of the orchestra. An often recurring style of lighting design is to light this singer in a light colour and darken the rest of the stage. The aria in opera is usually the most dramatic moment where, in the beauty of the music and the singing all attention needs to go to the singer. “The aria, after all, is the soul of opera.” (Richard Wagner). In theatre their can be monologues, but they can be anywhere on the stage, and are not necessary the most dramatic moment in the piece. Dialogues in theatre usually contain more energy, just as the arias in opera contain the most energy. Remember, there are of course many exceptions. 24
  26. 26. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? It has not always been like this. In history, the attention in opera has been with the music. The stage was equally lit with no special attention to the soloist, until the sixties, when Franco ZeffirelliX and Luchino ViscontiXI placed a demand on the singers that they should also act. (Lighting opera, page 126 – Stage Lighting – Richard Pilbrow) Even conductors, like Georg Solti and Guilino began to show interest in staging and stage lighting. „Under the old regime the director, the set director and the chief electrician got together and in an all too often haphazard manner decided how they would light the scenery and when necessary the 28 singers.” 4.3. The role of music in the designing process In every single piece of literature consulted and in all four interviews the role of music in opera is stated as the main difference between opera and theatre. The music in opera motivates the lighting, determines the scene and is not used cinematically; it is the primary source of sense experience. One could say (and generalise) that dance is based on movement, theatre on text and opera on music. The cueing in these genres can be taken back to this division; cues in dance are generally based on movement, on text in theatre and on the music in opera. Whether the music gives less or more freedom to the designer depends on the designer. Some say the music points the designer in the way to a fulfilling design. „Opera is very beautiful to work in, because it can have a greater gesture. In theatre you often have to put something very subtle between the lines. You think of the design in another manner. The 29 music already filled in a few things.” One could say that in theatre the design possibilities and scene or light changes often occur between the lines. In opera the music continuously provides possibilities for scene and/or light changes. The scene mood in opera depends on the mood, pace and rhythm of the music. The music is a given fact that grows with the conductor. The conductor is responsible for the pace of the music and therewith the pace of the direction and therefore also the pace of the design. Many set designers and lighting designers need strong communication with the conductor and director to get on the same artistic level about the music. Opera is rather music in a theatrical form then the other way around. The difference with for example musical and musical theatre is hard to explain. In comparison with theatre one can of course rely on the origin of the piece. Does the piece have a composer or an author? An opera always has a composer, just like most musicals and musical theatre, in the last case nonetheless often in combination with a librettist. „I don’t believe that in opera the text should follow the music, even not if that was originally the intention. The music can have a total other mental space then the text. Moreover, it is possible that the physical movements, the virtual space, the scenery and the gestures all have their own rhythm and still make a whole, just in different mental spaces. It is just how you arrange those layers. ” […] „It is just like a cheeseburger, you have the bread, the meat, the mayonnaise, unions, cheese and mustard; together they make a sandwich. That are the different structures, different layers who belong together, who complete each other or are in opposition sometimes. In opera it is the same. De music can be fast while the singers move very slowly. That produces a certain tension. If it is 30 done well, you’ll hear the music better.” This last quotation is interesting because it shows the substantial link between the visual and audial within opera according to opera director and designer Robert Wilson. The 28 Lighting opera, In conversation with William Bundy – Design problems: lighting musicals, ballet and opera; the repertoire – Stage Lighting – Richard Pilbrow – page 125 29 Mirjam Grote Gansey, set designer, quoted in Podium Produktie – Orfea ed Euridice 30 Robert Wilson, quoted in Odeon 46 – Moet de Puccini-fan vrezen voor Robert Wilson, August 2002 25
  27. 27. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? question remains whether the visual counterpart of the music in opera is there to support the music by visualising it, or a real distinctive visual artwork that completes the collective artwork. Robert Wilson also has an answer to that question: How would you characterize the relationship between the songs and your own presentation? I just picked settings that I thought were appropriate in some way for this music as a group of pictures or tableaux but which didn’t necessarily illustrate the music. And everything had to be in scale to 31 Jessye . There were certain moods in the landscapes that helped in deciding what songs are not meant to illustrate the background. The background is like a picture book that makes sense on its own. In Great Day, the visual is as important as what we hear. I think it helps us hear and the singing help us see. I think what I disliked about opera when I first went was that I couldn’t hear I was so visually distracted. I heard best when I shut my eyes. It’s very difficult to see and hear at the same time and mostly we do one or the other. What I try to do in all my work is make a balance between 32 what you hear and what you see, so that perhaps you can do both at the same time. „The lighting is an outgrowth of the music you hear. Certainly the cueing, which is the establishing of different looks for different moments within the opera, is all based on the music. In some music, you can hear a light cue a mile away. You can hear it’s time to do a build or it’s time to fade to cool because there is a key change. I always listen to the music. I listen to it over and over and just sort of think about what it should look like, what it should feel like. Then the cues are all timed as well. When you write light cues, it's not just a sudden shift of light from one cue to another. You can do very XII sudden shifts like in Nabucco when the crown falls off the head. That's a one-count cue. You can also have a three-minute cue to do just a slight fade to show the time of day or the lights outside the windows are just going down slowly or whatever. But all of that is definitely based on the music and 33 all those cues are actually put into a score.” We can conclude that the lighting in opera is based on the music, just like the set and the staging is based on the composed music. None of the different disciplines in opera stand on themselves; the meaning of the collective artwork is that all forms of art work together and produce one ‘work’. In case of opera a lyrical, musical artwork. The lighting in opera does not stand on its own; it is of no meaning without the music, just like the set design and the staging. Of course that is the same in theatre with the text or in dance with the movement. This strong connection between the music and the lighting is of great importance in the designing process. When a lighting designer designs for theatre the first links are available in the script. Just in the rehearsals, and eventually in the staging of the piece a definitive design can be made, because the cues and moods in the design depend on the style and mood of the direction and are therefore not traceable in the original script. It can only grow in conversation with the director and or set designer and in the rehearsals and staging period. In dance, the design has to grow with the choreography and staging. As a lighting designer in dance, you start with even less information, maybe a concept, or a piece of music. The movement, which is the inspiration source, develops within the rehearsals and mounting. In opera there is one important thing available for one of humans strongest sense perceptions; the music. The music gives a lot of information as regards mood; the style and pace is to be brought by the director, set and light designer and the conductor. E.g., a change in light can occur directly after the end of a musical scene, but also during the scene, after or during a movement of the singer or actor. The lighting cue can be sudden or take very long, during slow or fast music. It is not easy to give an example of this, but when viewing opera is something one can focus on. A view on the use of music of the interviewed lighting designers will be given in Chapter 5. Analyses of the interviews. 31 Jessye Norman, celebrated American soprano. 32 Robert Wilson: Current Projects. Interview with Laurence Shyrer, Theater, Summer/Fall 1983, page 84 - 91 33 Duane Schuler, lighting designer, Conversation Piece, Bruce Duffie, The Opera Journal, December 1998 26
  28. 28. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? 4.4. The economical aspect Perhaps the biggest difference between opera and theatre/dance is the economical aspect. Because opera is such a large scaled art form it needs long preparation. The international opera agenda is tight and strict. To prepare an opera with the most qualified director, conductor, singers, designers, etc, for the production one needs to think in years of preparation. Opera houses need to plan at least a few years in advance to plan the human logistics. When it comes to preparing a new opera multiple departments need to start working. It just takes a lot of time to go from the initial idea to the opening night. Since in this period of time the opera house is not reserved for the preparation of this particular opera, it has a huge overlap with other opera and (mostly) ballet productions. This is organised in the repertory 34 or the stagione35 system. Each country has a different way of handling the repertory or stagione system, depending on the financial situation of opera in that country and the countries ‘strictness’. Three determining factors will be explained in this chapter: the planning in advance, the commerciality of opera and the repertory or stagione system. 4.4.1. State support It is important to understand the economical position of the opera in particular countries because it determines the financial pressure on the repertory or stagione system and therewith the working circumstances of the travelling lighting designer. Germany The repertory in Germany, the country with the highest opera activity in the world, is one of the strictest forms of economical conditions in theatre. Most German cities have one ore more large theatre venue and or opera house, so every citizen is offered access to a nearby opera. Many theatre organisations in Germany are listed in the Deutscher Bühnenverein, a German theatre and orchestra association. Opera houses belong to the community and often have a programme of dance, drama and orchestral concerts alongside opera. Public funding keeps the ticket price reasonable. These houses have a fixed group of actors, designers, staff and technicians, mostly depending on the artistic vision of the contracted intendant. Resident lighters, heads of lighting departments of the opera houses often make the lighting designs together with the director and the set designer. This differs from the situation in many other countries, e.g. the United States or the United Kingdom, since they rather don’t contract international lighting designer, because of their repertory system and because directors, set designers and lighters are under limited or unlimited contract in the same building. To be able to run the opera house financially different shows are produced at the same time. This means a different production every evening, filling the complete season. This puts an enormous pressure on the venue and on production time, since all designing time depends on the free time between performances. The Semperoper in Dresden is a good example of the repertory system: in season 2005/2006 they gave 178 performances of 43 operas, 70 ballet performances, 44 34 More about the repertory system in chapter 4.4.3. Repertory. 35 Stagione (Italian for 'season') is an organisational system for presenting opera, often used by large companies. Typically each production is cast separately and has a brief but intensive run of performances. By contrast, companies that use a repertory system maintain a permanent company and rotate productions over many months or even years. 27
  29. 29. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? symphony concerts, chamber music, theatre and children project. A total of 300 events, more then 90% of the theatre capacity. Since public funding decreased Semperoper is sponsored by a local beer brand. United States of America To understand the working situation in American opera houses nowadays a short summary of the history of opera in America and the current union system will be given. Opera in the United States is relatively young. With the first British colonies in the eighteenth century came some British opera, but the Italian American García family performed the first public opera in 1825 in New York. In 1935 America launched ‘The New Deal’, a funding project for the arts, where artists were entitled to employment as artists and where the arts were the legitimate concern of the federal government. Opera, however, was limited by the fear that it would be too expensive. Many of the operas were performed in concert form and the venues where these concert operas were performed were mostly not adequate for opera performances. The New Deal was also responsible for civic buildings, so they replaced old opera houses into Public Works Administration Auditoriums. These civic auditoriums later became the focal point of the proliferation of civic opera associations in the 1960s. In the 1930s and 1940s America contracted many singers, conductors and directors from Europe, since there just were not enough available in the nation itself. The New Deal was partly there to give the arts a more American character. Then the Second World War changed everything. Some artists went back to Europe, but even more artists came from Germany and Italy to the relatively safe United States. This created some stability in the opera development in the roaring years of the war. Just in the 1950’s opera was in the greatest period of growth. America was short after the Second World War and the appreciation for music grew wildly, also because of new technology like the long-playing record and the compact disc. The New York City Opera tried to compete with the popular Metropolitan opera by producing operas by American composers and forgotten European operas. They reorganised their finances and while the city and state governments waived their annual rent they turned to public fundraising. Between 1962 and 1987 the number of companies with budgets exceeding 100.000 dollars grew from 27 to 154; attendance at operas given by these companies rose from 4,5 million to 13 million; opera performances increased from 4,000 to 13,000 per year. In 1949 New York built the Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts, a building where the Metropolitan Opera House, the Philharmonic Hall, the Vivian Beaumont Theatre and the Juilliard School of Music would house. The total building price of $ 184 million was gained from city, state and federal governments ($40 million), the Ford Foundation ($25 million), the Rockefeller Foundation and John D. Rockefeller ($25 million). The rest came from individuals and corporations. 36 Economically opera was a disaster. America’s economic growth was based on increasing productivity, and with the coming of television live opera became stagnant. To produce an opera for television took less then twice the man-hours of live performance, but it reached an audience of perhaps twenty million. With the production costs rising opera had a huge financial problem. Opera is very labour-intensive, and this labour was the crux of the matter. The labour was badly paid and musicians, choristers and stagehands became members of unions like the American Federation of Labour to force higher payments. Artists were considered as workers and were treated the same way. To assure good income artists almost needed to become a union member. Until today this system is intact and has grown larger. Today the unions control every labour in the performing arts, including stagehands, technicians and electricians. The unions therewith also are in charge of working times, salaries, safety, and etcetera. It is the unions that 36 Opera in America – A cultural history, John Dizikes, Yale University, Yale 1993 28
  30. 30. Opera Lighting – The ‘elite’ designers? control the working circumstances of the regular employees of a modern opera house in America. Today many theatres in the United States are in repertory, like in the United Kingdom and Germany, and competing with commercial theatre. Repertory theatre with mostly changing casts and longer running productions are perhaps better classed as "provincial" or "non-profit" theatre. Italy The state support of opera in Italy is not what one could expect in the country where opera was bourn and where every city has a large opera house, and where streets and squares are named after famous opera artists. Around 1995 Italy appropriated €300 million of public money for opera, 0,01% of the total state budget. “With regard to finances, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala – one of the worlds greatest opera houses – received during a recent fiscal year, for example, approximately €43 million from the state, to which were added contributions of €4 million from the regional government, €190,090 from donors and private sources and €9,8 million from ticket sales. With interest, bequests, and money from record, 37 radio, and television rights, Teatro alla Scala’s total budget amounted to €70,6 million. It was not till after the Second World War that the present organizational structure in Italy was established. Law 800, passed on 14 August 1967, governs state support of opera. In the boards of the state supported opera houses are civic politicians seated to remain good connections between opera houses and the local government. The musical director is not included on the governing board. Riccardo Muti, music director at La Scala, Milan between 1986 and 2005, was not really enthusiastic about this system: “I believe the Italian system is defective in every field. The surgeon is not admitted to the governing board of the hospital, just as the conductor is not admitted to that of a theatre. The laws exclude the expert from the control room! It is a serious mistake, because you should hear the opinion of the person who is to carry out the operation, be it clinical or musical. Under the present system, results 38 are achieved by miracle rather than by normal or rational program.” There are two types of opera houses in Italy, the ente lirici and the teatro di tradizione. The ente lirici are self-governing but with financial government support. A national commission and their own local government govern the teatro di tradizione, or traditional theatre. With some exceptions, Italian houses follow the stagione system (stagione literally means ‘season’) rather then the repertory system. In the stagione system, only one opera is mounted at a time. This production may be repeated three or four to a dozen times before it closes. There are usually no changes in the cast. The length of the season and the amount of productions depends of the amount of government money. The ente lirici offer between six and ten operas a season, and the teatro di tradizione one or two to five or six. Originally each theatre, particularly the ente lirici produced their own opera’s, but because the productions costs are increasing and the state support is decreasing they have started to share productions with other Italian theatres and foreign theatres. In Italy before the Second World War all operas were translated to Italian, but with the sharing of productions they are performed in their language of origin. The Netherlands In the Netherlands opera is very young, even younger then opera in the United States of America. Since the seventeenth century travelling opera productions have visited the Netherlands, but just in 1986 the first national opera house was build in 37 Opera in Italy today, Nick Rossi, chapter 1, - ANELS 1989, tables 1 through 8 38 Jamieson, 1990 29

×