Review
Books

Scenography in contemporary Scandinavian opera and theatre take centre stage in new book

Lars-Ake Thessman on his set- and costume-designs

Lars-Åke Thessman, Aida, Act 1, Scene 1 © Lars-Åke Thessman

Opera today is a Marmite topic. The so-called Regietheater is the fundamental reason for this split. On the one hand, there are those who profoundly object to design- and idea-lead productions which, they say, betray both librettist and composer. On the other, others contend that opera needs to be translated into the media and visual language of our age. Lars-Ake Thessman belongs to the latter group and this book is a compendium of his set- and costume-designs for many canonical operas and plays in Scandinavian theatres over the past 30 years (for example this still of his production of Verdi’s Aida, Act 1, Scene 1). He wisely comments that production is not an autonomous art form. He adds that its impact relies on the first spontaneous judgement of the audience. Quite how all this adds up, I'm not sure, except that this book includes no discussion of music. I've been to a number of first nights when, at the curtain calls, the musicians are given rousing cheers and the designer-producers resounding boos. De gustibus non disputandum est.

  • Lars-Ake Thessman, Time Here becomes Space: Scenography, Art and Theory Publishing, 242pp, €43 (hb)