12 February 2016 at 1.00pm | Comment on this article
German designer Julia Hansen made her Royal Opera House debut with set and costume designs for The Royal Opera’s debut production of Chabrier’s absurd comic opera L’Étoile, directed by Mariame Clément.
‘There’s so many things going on and I didn’t get it at all’, says Julia of her first impressions of the opera. ‘I was saying to Mariame, “what is it all about?”. We thought, “that’s it!”’
With its combination of eccentric characters, love triangles and hidden identity, Chabrier’s bonkers comic opera is a challenging work to stage: ‘It’s just like a number of things that happen’, says Julia. ‘You don’t really get the arc of the story.’
Julia therefore chose a collage approach with her designs, with costumes and sets spanning from the Victorian period to the 1950s:
‘This set is almost old-fashioned because we use a sliding system so you can bring things in and out very easily’, she explains. ‘Suddenly a mountain comes in and breaks into this picture and you can change where you are, or suddenly a palace shows up, or a cow. The whole thing is a collage.’
Though quite unlike other productions Julia has worked on, designing for L’Étoile has certainly been an enjoyable experience. ‘We just have the liberty of having ideas – deep or stupid or silly’, she concludes.
Watch more films like this on the Royal Opera House YouTube channel:
This film was created for Design Challenge, our annual competition challenging young people to create their own designs for an opera or ballet production.
Discover more about the spectacular, multimedia nature of opera in the exhibition Opera: Passion, Power and Politics, at the V&A Museum 30 September 2017–25 February 2018.