Frank Gehry, FAIA, jumps on the bus with Raphael Viñoly, FAIA, turning his sketching from buildings to opera sets. Last weekend, his sets for Don Giovanni accompanied costumes by fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte debuted for a sold-out crowd in Disney Hall (also designed by Gehry).
Steven Lee Morris, who writes for LA Weekly, questions director Christopher Alden’s insistence that the focus is on the music. (We can hear him: “Truly, we swear!”)
This is like theater companies saying that their staging of a play by Shakespeare aims to dump high-concept notions or settings to focus on the text — the text in a play by Shakespeare being akin to the music in an opera.
Form imitates … form, when it comes to the set design, which has what looks like oversized, crumpled white sheets of paper reminiscent of Gehry’s famous white-paper architectural sketches, Mark Swed reports for the Los Angeles Times.
The texture is gorgeous, begging to be touched (forget it, the ushers mean business). If, as the architect has often said, the interior of Disney suggests a ship, then these radiant white paper pillows are perhaps the whitecaps of a choppy sea. They serve as an exciting metaphor for the characters of a complicated plot that ends with the reprobate Don dragged to the underworld. They also make fine hiding places.
The opera is the first in a trilogy of presentations over three seasons dedicated to the music of Mozart and to his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. These collaborations between the two are “three of the greatest operas ever written,” the orchestra says.
And, like all Gehry projects, the accompanying sketch that was the genesis of the project is just as interesting as the real thing.