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Set design

The challenge

Please ensure that these elements are in your final research and designs.

  • Produce a portfolio (or sketchbook) showing your initial ideas on the themes and background of Salomé. Apply this research into a final design concept for the whole production with an outline and artist drawing of each set piece.

Your research should show your personal – as well as artistic – response to the themes and context of the opera, and should communicate set design ideas for a production to be staged at the Royal Opera House. This should include an exploration of the issues raised in the opera and how the production you are working on reflects them.

  • Construct a detailed model box to demonstrate your final design for one scene. The recommended dimensions are of a scale model box at 1:50, you can download templates below or use your school or college’s software to build and demonstrate a model box.

Model box template 1:50 (printable on A2/A1)

Model box template 1:75 (printable on A3) 

Model box template 1:100 (printable on A4)

Your final design should be for one setting within the narrative of the opera, which may or may not be a whole act. You may use computer software to design and display your model box.

Director's Visions

The close collaboration and full understanding between a director and a designer is an essential part of every production and crucially important to the successful execution of the conceptual vision of the director.

The design can and should be very much another protagonist within the story, not remaining in the background as something merely aesthetic but enabling, enhancing and facilitating the narrative in its chosen structure. It provides the space in which the story unfolds, the distances and hiding places where the characters make their choices. Remember that visual aids help us understand psychological situations and changes; in which case the set is the most important visual aid we have. Everything on a stage should be there for a reason, to aid the story. Often, less can be more. Giving room to imagination is a gift to the audience and keeps them involved as the story unfolds.

Please download the Director's Visions for 2017/18 here. Choose one of the four Director’s Visions to focus your design ideas.

You will choose one of the Director’s Visions which will focus and inform your design choices.

In your final design you will need to show concrete knowledge of the production and of opera or ballet as an art form, with a clear demonstration of how this knowledge informs your design ideas.

Research questions

The following list is a research guide:

What is opera, and how does it affect stage design?
How does design aid the telling of the story?
What is the story and how is it split across the acts?
Who are the main characters?
What visual items are mentioned in the synopsis such as important props or furniture? How do you want to incorporate these items into the design?
What practicalities do you need to think about when designing a set for an opera?
How is the set affected by the time of day, period and season?
How many changes of scene are necessary and how will you move efficiently between them?

 Useful resources

Understanding your client:

Royal Opera House website
IMAGES: Royal Opera House Flickr page
FILM: What we do - the Royal Opera House

Set for opera and ballet:

FILM: Designing Frankenstein
FILM: Designing L'Etoile

FILM: Transferring a set
FILM: Modelshowing for La donna del lago
FILM: Designer Jon Bausor on working in opera and ballet
FILM: Hansel and Gretel - designing Liam Scarlett’s ballet
FILM: The set design in the Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
FILM: Es Devlin on designing for the Royal Opera

Submitting entries:

Students will need to submit entries to their school or college first for internal judging. Teachers will then submit 1 entry for every 20 students as their finalist(s). Institutions should then send the following materials for each finalist to the Royal Opera House:

  • Three quality photos of the student’s completed design
  • College internal judging notes about the entry, including why they have been selected as a finalist
  • A 90 second video of the student pitching their design. They should use their sketchbooks to help demonstrate how they have responded to the brief and the Directors Vision.

Visit our Winners' page to see details of past winner's work.

Judging process

Visit our judging page to watch a short video filled with advice from past judges.

Design Challenge receives generous philanthropic support from the Paul Hamlyn Education Fund.