When Opera Australia set out to create their production of Verdi’s La Traviata, they knew they wanted to do something special. The opera, containing some well-known classical music pieces, tells the tragic tale of forbidden love between Violetta, a fallen woman, and Alfredo, a marquis. This stunning masterpiece, captured live on the water of Sydney Harbor, will be presented on the State Theatre’s 46’ screen in HD on September 30.
The floating stage built over Sydney Harbor with a stunning backdrop of the Sydney Opera House measures approximately 25 meters (over 80 feet) and made to look like a tarnished mirror. The stage is so large that rehearsals for the opera had to take place at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre, which was built specifically for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Set designer and Sydney native Brian Thomson, who is responsible for the set design of the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show and won a Tony® for his set design of The King & I on Broadway, chose a mirror to represent Violetta’s view of herself. Thomson also believes that the opera itself is a reflection of that Parisian society, so what better way to represent that than a mirror. (Click here for an interview with Brian Thomson.) Hanging over the set is one of the largest chandeliers in the world at 9 meters high by 9 meters wide—that’s about 30 feet each way—and weighing about 3 tons. The chandelier, covered in Swarovski crystals, had to arrive on set on its own barge from Barangaroo (yes, that’s a real place). Watch a video of the chandelier being transported here.
Knowing that they needed a specific kind of director for a spectacle like this, Opera Australia turned to Francesca Zambello, who is known for her large-scale productions of the classics and also for directing the Bregenz Festival which contains a floating stage on a lake in Austria. Costume designer Tess Schofield was brought aboard to make sure that the performers didn’t get lost on such a large stage. She designed costumes with a 1950’s style and lots of bright colors. Her costume design, which she says is inspired by the Mad Men era, takes one detour away into a Mardi Gras-themed masquerade ball in the second act.
If the giant set, chandelier, costumes, and opera itself aren’t enough, also keep an eye out for fireworks at the end of the first act. You can see this amazing production at the State Theatre for yourself on September 30. Click here for more information.