|Project Name||Rigoletto Opera||Posted in||Interior Design, Lighting Design||Interior Designer||Pierre Yovanovitch|
|Year||Jan 21 - Jun 21, 2023||Venue||Theatre Basel|
Invited by acclaimed director Vincent Huguet to design the set of Theater Basel’s production of Rigoletto in Switzerland, French interior designer Pierre Yovanovitch jumped at the opportunity, creating a dynamic scenography that both captures and amplifies the mounting emotional tension of Giuseppe Verdi’s operatic tragedy. Contemporary in aesthetic yet timeless in sensibility, Yovanovitch’s moveable design scheme incorporates his signature curved staircase, distinct colours and architectural angles into a bold yet uncomplicated canvas for the psychologically complex storyline to unfold upon.
Known for his mastery of volumes, proportions and light, the designer’s haute couture aesthetic of understated grandeur and graceful simplicity effortlessly meshes with Rigoletto’s universal themes of power, naivety, responsibility and vengeance. Conducted by Michele Spotti, with Swiss soprano Regula Mühlemann in the role of Gilda, the show runs until June 21, 2023, giving plenty of time for opera and design lovers to experience Yovanovitch’s operatic endeavour.
Based on a play by Victor Hugo called “Le roi s'amuse”, Rigoletto is considered one of Verdi's masterpieces. An operatic drama of jealousy in a world of outer appearances, the story is centred on the licentious Duke of Mantua, his lowly court jester Rigoletto and the latter’s beloved daughter Gilda who is eventually destroyed as an inadvertent result of the title character’s own anger and bitterness. The embodiment of an evil macho society, the Duke takes pleasure in abusing his lovers and humiliating his subordinates while Rigoletto plays cynical jokes on his master's victims. When his own daughter falls victim to the duke’s seduction however, he hatches a plan to murder him in revenge which tragically backfires when Gilda sacrifices herself to save the Duke’s life.
Made up of a series of curved, concentric walls, the set follows the opera’s plot by gradually moving into a tighter circle in line with the mounting drama and climatic finale, as well as the protagonist’s deteriorating state of mind and increasingly desperate circumstances. “I created a moving set that could gradually take shape as Rigoletto’s curse evolves”, Yovanovitch explains referencing the curse that the father of one of the Duke’s victims places on both the Duke and Rigoletto early on in Act One—for context, the opera's original title was "La maledizione" (The Curse).
The scenography brings to mind the swooping architectural curves of Richard Serra's monumental sculptures and their distorting effect on the viewers' perception, made all the more pronounced in this case by the set's moveable design. By making the installation mobile, the designer also enables each scene to offer spectators a different perspective, as do the colours that he selected for the curved walls. Alternating between white, blue and red, the coloured walls evocatively frame the characters and draw attention to the shift in acts throughout the show. In combination with the expressionistic lighting design, the sets captivate the audience despite their austere design, not unlike Edward Hopper's paintings and James Turrell's light installations. At the same time, the minimal, stripped-down set design allows the characters' souls to take up as much space as they need, as Yovanovitch remarks.
A long-time opera enthusiast, the project is the realization of a lifelong dream for Yovanovitch, whose practice is primarily focused on residential and furniture design. As it turns out, it could also be the beginning of one more chapter of his Paris and New York practice, as both cities sport famous opera houses after all.