Visionary Artists on Stage

Giorgio De Chirico ritocca il fondale della scena di Mefistofele 1952Teatro Alla Scala

Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

De Chirico, the founder of the scuola metafisca, is famed for his proto-Surrealist assemblages of mannequins, trains and arcades. Like Picasso and Matisse, he also collaborated with the innovative Ballet Russes, designing the sets and costumes for ballets such as Le Bal in 1929. Within sets inspired by classical buildings, the dancers typically seemed to become part of the architectural ensemble.

La Bottega Fantastica/leggenda Di Giuseppe - La Leggenda Di GiuseppeTeatro Alla Scala

In 1951, de Chirico created the sets for a performance of Strauss’s Josephslegende at La Scala (he had already worked on the premiere with the Ballet Russes), in a new staging by Margarete Wallmann.

While for the Ballet Russes production de Chirico drew inspiration from Renaissance art, at La Scala he opted for a neo-baroque design. Colourful costumes added a dash of Oriental allure.

Lago / Creature / Capriccio / Petrouchka - Le Creature Di PrometeoTeatro Alla Scala

Photo: Salvatore Fiume and Giorgio de Chirico

Tristano E IsottaTeatro Alla Scala

Mario Sironi (1885-1961)

The somber paintings of Sardinian modernist artist Mario Sironi combine depictions of Milan’s sprawling industrial quarters with metaphysical symbolism. Sironi moved to Milan after meeting Umberto Boccioni and fell under the spell of the Futurist movement. His way of mixing elements of traditional Italian art with a more modern aesthetic endeared him to the Fascists, and Siorni became a collaborator of the regime’s official newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia.

Tristano E IsottaTeatro Alla Scala

Like his cityscapes, Sironi’s opera and ballet sets were dark and brooding. In La Scala’s 1948 production of Tristan und Isolde, Isotta’s room was filled with towering trees. The prow of a ship was shown rising from the murky depths.

Donnerstag Aus LichtTeatro Alla Scala

Gae Aulenti (1927-2012)

The postwar architect Gae Aulenti is best known for architectural projects including Paris’s Musée d'Orsay. Yet she was also a celebrated designer of furniture, lighting, graphics and opera sets

WozzeckTeatro Alla Scala

In frequent collaborations with Luca Ronconi, her striking sets gave life to the director’s boundlessly imaginative conceptions. Key examples include a 1994 production of Strauss’s Elektra, which featured cows placed against a huge wooden crate and bleeding cuts of meat hanging from a wall.

La Fiaba Dello Zar SaltanTeatro Alla Scala

Rimsky Korsakov’s The Tale of Tsar Saltan (staged in 1988) depicted swans set against dark clouds and a large feast table seen from above.

Il Viaggio A ReimsTeatro Alla Scala

For Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims in 1984, Aulenti provided flags, a row of baths, a film projector and a huge cake.

The Rake's ProgressTeatro Alla Scala

David Hockney (b. 1937)

From the mid-1970s, Britain’s most popular artist turned to opera. His set designs for John Cox’s production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (1975) and Mozart’s The Magic Flute (1978), both for Glydebourne, first travelled to La Scala in 1979 and 1986 respectively.

The Rake's ProgressTeatro Alla Scala

The Rake's Progress

Die ZauberflöteTeatro Alla Scala

Hockney’s designs for The Rake’s Progress featured cross-hatching as well as inky colours suggestive of the William Hogarth engravings that inspired the music. In The Magic Flute, colourful designs including an avenue of palms were clearly inspired by Hockney’s pop art.

Credits: Story

Curated by James Imam and the Teatro alla Scala

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