First, a confession. Whenever I see a play, band or musical – any kind of performance – I tend to pay as much attention to the technical aspects of the show as the people on stage making noise. There’s something that can be magical about a well-done production; even though I can understand the mechanisms that are contributing to some particular effect, it can still be effective in ways that baffle me. So it’s with particular interest that I read about this recent set design completed by Rafael Vinoly for the opera Die Liebe der Danae.
The set looks moody and abstract in a way that I really enjoy. In talking about working on set design, Vinoly says this about architects.
“Architects feel empowered to give opinions about politics and sociology and philosophy without knowing much about it. [...] Kind of in the same way that they think they can design furniture or fashion or utensils for dining. I think architects tend to believe that they can almost do anything, which is a wonderful characteristic, but in some cases you just fall flat. Theatrical design is just a completely different vocabulary. It’s a very, very difficult thing to do well.”
I can’t decide if I agree with him or not. There have been some pretty, albeit dysfunctional, designs coming from the hands and offices of architects. The effort to work in another area isn’t the problem though, it’s the attitude. What Vinoly seems to be saying is that architects need to take their efforts more seriously when they dabble outside of buildings. His dabbling looks great and seriously well-done.