Behind the Facade

The Art of Scenery at the Tri-cities Opera

Features never before seen designer models for the extensive, beautiful, and nationally known sets of Tri-Cities Opera, along with a behind the scenes look at the creation of the newest scenes for Die Fledermaus.

Scenic Design for Die Fledermaus
@ Tri-Cities Opera

The experience of designing Die Fledermaus as TCO’s 65th anniversary show has been both worth while and complex. I was relieved to find that they were doing a farce that meant that aesthetically the physical world that I was creating for them could have a sense of style and levity itself. Often time a room just needs to be a room but for something like a farce, even an opera farce, allows for a little more playfulness in use of color and line.

I guess I should step back a moment and say that when TCO approached me about designing this show they approached several of us who design and teach a Binghamton University, as they wanted a local design team for this anniversary show. That said the Costume Designer: Andrea Lenci–Cherchiara, Lighting Designer: John Vestal, and Technical Director: Craig Saeger are all designers and professors at Binghamton University and quite a talent pool that I don’t know that TCO was a aware was available so close at hand until the idea for this project took wing.

Overall Andrea and I have really worked very closely to keep a much unified style and palette based on period architecture and fashion of the era that TCO wanted to use, 1890’s. It is a unique time frame in that it transitional from the “Victorian” which is complex in its own nature, into the more modern “Art Nouveau”. Not wanting to be a fussy stylistically we chose simpler and cleaner lines and more rich tones to fill out our palettes.

We very much wanted to capture that transitional period as much of the content and themes are humorous but less stuffy than one might expect. Keeping in mind the choices of historical eras, locations and the wealth of material available to us in the libretto we crafted a world that is unique to our version of Die Fledermaus for Tri-Cities Opera.

Karen M. Kozlowski

Statement from the Scenic Charge Artist

Art for me is all about the process of creation. All art is transmutation; the shifting of one thing to another. All art is illusion because as Magritte pointed out: This is not a pipe.

Theatre is not just transmutation and illusion, it is the combined processes of a multitude of art forms towards the same, perfectly timed, illusion. Each singer and instrument, each builder and craftsman and designer and painter has been striving on their own road, running headlong towards where we all collide onstage and all the pieces must be made to fit, to work together, and to create the grand illusion, because the show must go on.

As an artist, I tend to rebel agains structures and restrictions. I do not like to concieve of myself as cog in the mechanism, however there is a certain satisfaction in trusting that each image handed to me at 1″=1’0″ scale is exactly what is desired, a contentment to simply reproducing the vision from the computer screen at 25’x50′.

I started working at Tri-Cities Opera right out of high school, when I barely realized that I enjoyed painting and I certainly had no idea the reach and longevity my inexpert brush-strokes would have. My first work with the Opera was on Elixir of Love, the designers model for which you can see here. My awe of the craftsmanship and detailed vision of Gary Eckhart has not lessened over the decade since I first saw that model, in fact, it has deepened as my artists eyes have learned to see more and more.

Compared to Gary, Karen Kozlowski is a very young designer living in a very different age. What Karen has done with computers, Gary could not have done with the technology of that time. Intitially, on seeing Karen’s design, my instinct was to minimalize the digital feel, but as charge artist my job was to faithfully reproduce the design.

As I discovered the techniques to pixalize and produce the textures printed before me, the processes of pointillism that are somehow both ageless and very modelrn, I discovered that color beside color, highlight beside shadow, and the spatter flung from a brush has a visual timelessness, and a timelessness of process. The wheel goes round, but spatter is spatter in the twenty-first century as it was when Strauss hummed the first tune that would become Die Fledermaus.