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Watch: Creating the Robert le diable backdrop in time-lapse

We followed the scenic painters as they prepared the backcloth for Laurent Pelly's new production.

By Lottie Butler (Assistant Content Producer)

26 September 2012 at 6.01pm | 5 Comments

Over the summer, the talented team at the Bob and Tamar Manoukian Production Workshop in Thurrock prepared the backcloth for Laurent Pelly’s new production of Robert le diable, which opens this December.

A larger-than-life medieval battle scene, depicted on a sizeable canvas of 24m x 11.5m, it has taken a team of three about four weeks to complete, using up some 20 to 30 litres of paint.

Emma Troubridge, Head Scenic Artist at Thurrock, explained:

“First the canvas is stretched out, nailed to the floor and primed. Then, the artwork is gridded up, using a 1:25 metre scale, and drawn up full-size on the cloth using charcoal. The painting, which involves a mixture of brushes, sprays and rollers, can then begin.”

The workshop in Thurrock has the capacity to paint three cloths at any one time. However, some productions require up to 30 to 40 cloths, and so the team plan their schedule carefully 18 months in advance.

The Robert le diable backcloth is painted onto Scenic Flax canvas, and will last for many years. Following its Covent Garden premiere, the production will be staged at the Grand Théâtre Genève in Switzerland.


The team at the Bob and Tamar Manoukian Production Workshop in Thurrock creates many of the sets used in Royal Opera House productions. Most recently, the team built the cities of Troy and Carthage for David McVicar’s epic Les Troyens, which had its premiere last season. Find out more about the creation of the set. Cinemas around the UK will be screening Les Troyens during November.

The workshop has recently opened its doors to the public, running tours that offer an exclusive behind-the-scenes look.

This article has 5 comments

  1. donna responded on 26 September 2012 at 11:10pm Reply

    Simply stunning!

  2. Love this clip but please- can we have opera music- the william tell overture perhaps or some fast crazy Donizetti or Rossini?- not hideous techno style- had to turn the speaker off!

  3. unbelivable great work art
    congratulation. love to see it on stage

  4. Thank goodness it seems this production will be set in the period Meyerbeer intended. Whatever possessed ROH to set Les Troyens in the Franco-Prussian war and rob the story of its context? I think Berlioz would have been appalled, not least by a Trojan horse breathing meaningless fire to sell the tickets rather than lend credibility to the drama.

  5. Tony Glenville responded on 20 October 2012 at 10:00pm Reply

    Totally agree about inappropriate music for this rather fab bit of advance info about the production BUT Laurent Pelly is trustworthy on a FRENCH aesthetic which is exactly what Robert le Diable needs and I am sure will produce something wonderful.

This article has 1 mention elsewhere

  1. The Opern de Emlekzeotehetseg:  Painting the scenic cloth for The Royal Opera’s Robert le diable (Time-lapse)

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