Last January 2012 I was in Houston Texas the all month, to create "The Rape of Lucretia" by B. Britten.
I will try with my poor English to express what I did :
I loved the all work I did there. First of all, the very clear, simple and cleaver work of the director Arin Arbus. The work of the workshop who build the set in Chicago. The work and the relationship we had with the technical direction. The quality of the relations and work with the props, light and stage crew. The relationship with stage managing and assistants and the nice atmosphere inside of the artists cast. There is very fee moment in theatre live where there is just good things through the all process of creation.
The set I did was simple and sophisticate at same time. The first Idea I suggest was to Arin was to try to create an intimate space inside of this huge opera. Usually the singers are lost in this vast stage and look small. I want to do the opposite. Help their presence and help their voice. We lesson well when we see well but the presence of artists on stage are first through their voice. I have realize after have draw several set for opera that the singers are not using stage over 7,00m deep. (About 23 feet) Over this distance they probably think there voice will be lost. Which is true in most of the recent opera?
So I make a set not deeper than 7,00m for opera, I do it also in wood and on way the voice of the singers are collected and push in direction of the audience. In the set I did for lucretia behind the singers the platform and the steps have the same high that the singers. Over that high there is column who prolong the verticality of the artist and there energy. Horizontal lines express peace like see and beach where you feel naturally to seat; vertical line express energy like in forest where you do not feel to seat. The beauty of human been is also express by vertical line opposite to the horizontal one who compress the body. So in the set I did there is all this horizontal lines with the platforms and steeps and the vertical line with many column that stop eyes and live space to see through the sky.
We decided with Arin to express the atmosphere of the different scene in the sky. To do that I have to paint and mix with photos 100 slides project on very large back stage screen. (The size of the stage) I travel in different part of France to make about 2000 photos of sky. (See photos). We have also decided to not have many colors in set to let the costume designer free to develop all the colors. The set have almost one smooth color (more or less dark) so the presence of the singers with their colored costumes was stronger.
The people who work in the opera were surprise by the quality of the presence of the singers and there voice. They said the singers look to have a normal size. (That minds in other opera it is not the case?)