Design for the Stage: First Steps

By Darwin Reid Payne | Go to book overview

see these walls in position for a street scene. In the second sketch (see fig. 94), however, wall A is opened in toward the center to allow the garden of the Capulet house to be better exposed. Wall A is constructed so that it can open, thus revealing more of the Capulet garden (fig. 93). Wall A is opened at the time Romeo climbs onto the wall--thus it is possible to see him climb over it and down into the garden without losing sight of his action. The garden is exposed by the time Mercutio and Benvolio have entered (fig. 94).


§23 Detailed Analysis of the Script: The Church Scene in Faust

The first steps in designing for the opera is not unlike the approach to any other design project. Study and analyzation of the text usually takes precedence over any other activity. There is a basic difference, however, between the text of an opera and most other scripts. Reading the libretto alone can be an uninspiring experience since much of this text only becomes meaningful when it is amplified and underscored by the musical accompaniment. In opera, words and ideas, because they are not easily heard or understood when sung, are generally much more simple, repetitive, and straightforward in utterance with greater part of the emotional or poetic feeling left to the music. Still, this text must be as carefully studied as any playscript. It is gratifying to note, however, that modern operas have placed a greater emphasis on the libretto with the result that many of these newer works have more literary merit than has been the case in the past.

Faust, by Charles Gounod based on Goethe's drama of the same name, is an opera which belongs to the late-middle period of the romantic era, a movement that held the artistic world in its sway from approximately 1830 until well into the present century. Opera has yet to completely escape its influence (although as an art form it is not entirely alone in this respect), and probably will not as long as works written during the romantic period are still performed. At the present time, it is not possible to say just how long that will be, but it would seem that these works will be with us for some time to come.

In the Gounod Faust, much of the original legend, so powerful dramatically in the Goethe version, has, unfortunately, been weakened and obscured by the excessively sentimental attitudes of the period. (In Germany, this particular opera is generally advertised not as Faust, but Marguerite.) In the production we will examine here, it was decided

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