A Masked Ball - Unmasked

Sound Design on the Lake Stage at the Bregenz Opera

2000 OISTAT Scenography Commission Meeting
19-23 August 2000 at Bregenzer Festspielhaus, Bregenz, Austria
Text by Peter Ruthven Hall
Photos by Rick Thomas

Bregenz is situated in the heart of Europe where Austria, Germany and Switzerland meet on the shores of Lake Constance (known to the Austrians as the Bodensee): Zurich is 100 km away; Munich about 180 km. It is a small Austrian city but with a bold vision. Its annual festival is renowned worldwide for its spectacular opera stagings on the lake and every year over 160,000 visitors attend the productions, swelling the population of just 28,000 by another 50%.

The Bregenz Opera has a rich history of spectaular productions.

Here are a few pictures of some of them:

In July last year British director-designer team, Antony McDonald and Richard Jones's extraordinary designs for Verdi's 'A Masked Ball' hit the front pages of the international press.


The production featured spectacular scenery such as this crown that rose through the floor of the stage:


In one scene the entire front of the stage rises dramatically and a scene is played under the floor "canopy!"


In another scene an antique car rises out of the floor and is "driven" around the stage!


Here, the car waits for another performance in storage under the stage.

Then, when needed, the car rises from its storage place beneath the stage.

Many of you may remember seeing the image of a dark skeleton looming large over an enormous book floating in the lake.

The cast had nicknamed him "Sparky."

Note loudspeaker that pops out of Sparky's head:


This summer the production was revived and I was lucky to attend the final performance as the British delegate at the 2000 meeting of the OISTAT Scenography Commission hosted by the Bregenzer Festspiele.

OISTAT Visitors inside Crown on tour of facilities:

The sets have since been dismantled but work is already underway on Antony and Richard's new production of 'La Bohème' which will premiere next summer.

The focus of the Scenography Commission meeting was lighting and sound design, especially that relating to the workings of this phenomenal enterprise. As a set and costume designer I may not have been the ideal candidate to relay my findings so please forgive any misunderstandings about purely technical matters.


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