I like to travel routes unknown, not for snobbery or thirst for distinguish myself, but simply because i like to follow my thought and my instict in the wake of curiosity.

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John Macfarlane artist and theatre designer: from Maria Stuarda to Cinderella, an incredible visual artist.

John Macfarlane artist and theatre designer: from Maria Stuarda to Cinderella, an incredible visual artist.

I discovered the wonderful work of John Macfarlane while I was studying directors who created the opera Maria Stuarda in the opera house. So I was able to admire the magnificent work as both set and costume designer of this artist. For me, Maria Stuarda and Cinderella are simply the best projects! Only the concepts are small masterpieces.

John Macfarlane was born in Scotland and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. He received an Arts Council of Great Britain Trainee Designer award and spent some time as Resident Designer at the Young Vic Theatre in London.

For the first fifteen years of his career he worked mainly in dance with many of the major international companies. He collaborated with Jiri Kylian and the Netherlands Dance Theatre (Songs of a Wayfarer, Les Noces, Dreamtime, L’Enfant et les Sortileges, Piccolo Mondo, The Soldier’s Tale, Forgotten Land and Tanzschul); and Glen Tetley, The Fire Bird (Danish Royal Ballet), Weigenlied (Vienna State Opera), La Ronde and Tagore (Canadian Royal Ballet) and Dialogues (Dance Theatre of Harlem). He has also designed for the classical ballet repertoire: Swan Lake in Munich, Giselle (Royal Ballet) and Nutcracker (Birmingham Royal Ballet) both with Sir Peter Wright, and Le Baiser de la fée (Birmingham). Nutcracker has been remounted recently by the Australian National Ballet.

Latterly John Macfarlane has focussed on opera where he designs both sets and costumes. He works regularly with the German producer, Willy Decker, and with Francesca Zambella, David McVicar and Richard Jones.

With Willy Decker John designed A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Cologne Opera); Julius Caesar (Scottish Opera); Peter Grimes (Brussels); La Clemenza di Tito (Paris Opera); Othello (Brussels); Falstaff (Florence); Boris Gudunov (Amsterdam); Bluebeard/Ewartung (Royal Opera House); and Idomeneo (Vienna Opera).With Francesca Zambello he designed Benvenuto Cellini (Grand Theatre, Geneva), Barber of Seville (Santa Fe) and War and Peace (Paris).

John worked with David McVicar on Agrippina (Brussels); Magic Flute (ROH) and Don Giovanni (Brussels). They will do The Rake’s Progress together in Copenhagen in 2009. Hansel and Gretel, his first production with Richard Jones for Welsh National Opera won an Olivier Award and is being re-mounted by the Met in New York at Christmas 2007. Their second production, The Queen of Spades won the Royal Philharmonic Award. They worked together on Euryanthe for Glyndebourne Festival Opera; the second part of The Trojans for English National Opera; Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk and a double bill of L’Espagnol and Gianni Schichhi for the Royal Opera House.

John’s future commitments include Cinderella for Birmingham Royal Ballet, Elektrafor Chicago and Maria Stuarda for the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

In addition to his opera and dance work, John Macfarlane exhibits regularly as a painter and print maker in the U.K and Europe.

Below the gallery I recommend you an interview with him.




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Cecil Beaton’s costumes for La Traviata Metropolitan Opera House, 1966

Cecil Beaton’s costumes for La Traviata Metropolitan Opera House, 1966

Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) was best known as a photographer. Beaton also worked as an illustrator, a diarist, and designer for stage and film. He won three Oscars for costume and art direction for the film version of My Fair Lady (1965) and for Gigi (1958).
La Traviata is an opera in three acts with music by Giuseppe Verdi. The producer for the Metropolitan Opera House was Alfred Lunt and was the first production for the opening season of the new Metropolitan Opera House. Cecil Beaton’s designs were praised by the critics for catching the decadence and luxury of the mid-19th century Parisian scene.

Cecil Beaton created glorious gowns for the opening season of the Metropolitan Opera Company’s 1966 La Traviata at Lincoln Center-dressed in the reds and golds of the Met.

For the costumes, Beaton said “I wanted the colours to have a gold light-dark but sparkling, scintillating.” Karinska made the gowns and headresses-scouring about for old laces, jet, tinsel, ribbons to get the effect -a look of-lushness-a heaviness indicative of 1860 that Beaton desired. Alfred Lunt’s stage sets were designed by Beaton as well.

“I have the worst ear for criticism; even when I have created a stage set I like,
I always hear the woman in the back of the dress circle who says she doesn’t like blue. “
Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton - Marina Berenson for Vogue september 1966

Cecil Beaton – Marina Berenson for Vogue september 1966

Cecil arrived in New York City in 1928, having achieved early success in his homeland.Trans-Atlantic connections resulted in his near-instant introduction to New York City’s elite, including Elsie de Wolfe and Edna Woolman Chase, the editor of Vogue magazine at the time. What followed is the stuff of legend: a remarkably agile career which spanned fifty years and as many visionary works in which Beaton brought his rarefied vision to bear on fashion photography, illustration and caricature, portraiture (in drawings and photographs), and set and costume design for stage and film.
Cecil Beaton’s stratospheric ambition was nurtured and sustained by mid-20th–century New York, where his career was able to maintain a feverishly high pitch. Society figures, media giants, impresarios, celebrities, actors, artists, writers, and the merely famous passed in front of his camera in an endless parade of glamour and style. The pages of Condé Nast publications—most notably, Vogue magazine—showcased his elaborately staged photo shoots, in which his eye for opulence and drama animated such sitters as Fred (and his wife, Adele) Astaire, Maria Callas, Greta Garbo, Martha Graham, Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, and the woman who would become the ultimate 20th-century icon: Marilyn Monroe. He enlivened his photographs with sets in which he borrowed liberally and extravagantly from European art forms, incorporating formal elements of modern (and classical) painting and sculpture into his work, and bringing elements of such major aesthetic movements as impressionism, surrealism, and others into the homes of magazine readers nationwide.

His extraordinary stage sets and costumes for Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Ballet were masterful evocations of “place” in the extreme.


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Vogue 1949

I’m often surprised how many young students of sets and costume design do not know some historical masters of the scenography.
So I want to create a section on my blog about the masters of the past. Then I start with the incredible Lila De Nobili and her fantastic history and career.

Lila de Nobili (1916–2002) was a celebrated Italian fashion illustrator,and later stageand costume designer. She was noted for her work atVogue magazine, designing covers which are now classic pieces of fashion history.
Lila de Nobili was born at Lugano, Switzerland, on September 3 1916, to an Italian father and a Hungarian mother. Lila never went to school; instead she concentrated on drawing and painting.

She moved to Paris, in the 1930s she began designing clothes for French Haute Couture fashion houses.

She was well known on numerous European theatre and operatic stages in the 1950s and 1960s for her romantic settings and famous for working with Franco Zeffireli and Luchino Visconti at the Teatro alla Scala.


Lila De Nobili – Violetta Costume for Maria Callas

In the 1950s, De Nobili started working with theatre and film director Luchino Visconti, and in1955 began creating the costumes for La Traviata at La Scala Opera House, Milan, with the renowned Maria Callas as Violetta. This work has been inspiraton for Catherine Martin and the costume for Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge.

Impressive was her pictorial trait, her illustrations reminiscent of paintings by Boldini and some impressionst painter.

In Britain, she won renown for six Shakespeare productions for the young Peter Hall at Stratford-on-Avon between 1957 and 1962.
She went on to work for Laurence Olivier at the National Theatre on Congreve’s Love for Love (1965); her sets were used again for a revival 20 years later.
She also worked at Covent Garden and Glyndebourne; dressed Maria Callas in La Traviata (1955), and designed costumes in Paris for Edith Piaf and Ingrid Bergman.


Vogue _ 1946

Lila de Nobili also worked with Hall on Twelfth Night (1958) and The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1960). She dressed Audrey Hepburn for Gigi on Broadway and contributed to a number of Visconti productions.
In her final years, Lila de Nobili (died aged 85) became something of a recluse in Paris surrounded only by his cats. But she spent much of her time teaching painting to underprivileged children. She never married.

Lila De Nobili, costumes de cigarières pour Carmen de Bizet, 1959

Lila De Nobili, costumes de cigarières pour Carmen de Bizet, 1959

Lila De Nobili, costumes d’enfants et de soldats pour Carmen de Bizet, 1959

Lila De Nobili, costumes des enfants et de soldats pour Carmen de Bizet, 1959


Maria Callas – Costume by Lila De Nobili for Traviata

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The most innovative and incredible Opera House of the world? For me THEATRE ROYAL de la MONNAIE in Bruxelles.

I remember with great pleasure exactly when I went to Le Monnaie Opera House in Brussels, 4 years ago for one week, to evaluate a possible job offer (which I declined, because I decided to abandon definitively the world of the theater to try new experiences in the movie production).b

It was a great period, I was greeted with kindness and I had the opportunity to see their tremendous professionalism and seriousness. I was astounded, I felt like a fairy tale. Their departments of set design, scenography, painting and costumes were something of such a high level that I was literally amazed.

The “Golden Age” of Le Monnaye Opera House began with the belgian managing director Gerard Mortier (1982-1992). During this period the theatre impressed with its enthusiasm for innovation.

He encouraged a way of thinking and faith in his artists have left some permanent impact on the approach of the future managing directions in charge of building the repertoire of the Brussels Opera.

monnaie_macbethIn 2011 an international jury of 50 critics have a say in  who gets Opernwelt’s coveted annual award.  Several members of this year’s panel have told me that the choice of La Monnaie was unanimous. They praised the team spirit, the choice of conductors, stage directors and singers, and the perfect planning and execution. « No doubt about it, » reads their tribute, « under Peter de Caluwe’s leadership, the Théâtre de la Monnaie has reached a peak in our time and in its rich history ». What makes the award all the more significant  is that this is the first time the prize hasd been awarded to an opera house outsidethe German-speaking world.

Since Peter De Caluwe, 50 y, is  general manager of La Monnaie and not for nothing He called the most impressive and innovative directors as Italian Romeo Castellucci (Parsifal) and polish Krzysztof Warlikowski. parsifal-castellucci

Romeo Castellucci and his Societas Rafaello Sanzio collaborators have produced some of the most seductive and enigmatic performance masterworks of recent times. n 2003 he became director of the theatre section of the 37th edition of the Venice Biennale, and in 2008 he was one of two “associate artists” at the Festival d’Avignon, and created three pieces inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. The trilogy was considered by the French newspaper Le Monde  to be “the best play and one of the ten most influential cultural events in the world for the decade 2000-2010”.

Krzysztof Warlikowski  is creator and artistic director of Nowy Teatr(New Theatre) in Warsaw. He’s one of the most innovative director in Europe. He has also worked with Isabelle Huppert some years ago for a great performance on the play “Un Tramway was slammed”  by Tennessee Williams at the Théâtre de l’Odéon in Paris.

In Italy not surprisingly, Castellucci and the Polish director are almost unknown and for the opera house has never worked, while in France they are acclaimed.WHY?


Macbeth, Theatre La Monnaie.