Opera Lyra Ottawa’s Director of Production shares his thoughts on our scenic settings for Turandot.
I have always been fascinated by the idea of negative space or ‘Ma’ (Japanese for ‘gap’ or ‘empty’). I am not educated in the method, but am inspired to think in these terms when I think of the set for Turandot.
In this production of Turandot, Scenic Designer Anita Stewart transforms the theatre into a bare canvass and the scenery is reduced to its essentials – a series of scaffolds and bare platforms – simple yet powerful forms and lines. Anita’s vertical landscape is rich with meaning and reflects the social hierarchy that divided the people and landscape surrounding the Forbidden City and the palace within. With Michael Baumgarten’s lighting, the bare space is given depth and contrast. Michael uses a large backdrop and rich colour to impose detailed silhouettes of structure and performer. These shadows dance between and redefine the positive and negative space throughout the show. John Boesche’s projections fill the space with mood and meaning. His projections of cloudy skies, Chinese texts and abstract but sensuous designs have been described as a ‘velvet-backed greeting card’.
It is a fine marriage of design.
I am inspired by the simplicity and the stark contrasts it allows for. The negative space fills up with colour, dimension and most importantly, rich, refined performances that dance and sing out from the in-betweens evoking the ‘nocturnal mysteries of fairy tale Peking’
Implementing the design at the National Arts Centre requires a different mind set altogether; struggling with the finer details and practical challenges requires some micro management and looking beyond the image and art. I have the help of the NAC backstage crew, Opera Carolina and a creative/management team not to be outdone. Planning, plotting and devising the safest and most efficient way to bring this set to life requires most of my attention. Luckily, I have stupendous support from all sides and am thusly afforded the odd moment to reflect on the possibilities and let the images take me away.
Rick Banville, Director of Production