Magazine article Opera Canada

Francois St-Aubin

Magazine article Opera Canada

Francois St-Aubin

Article excerpt

Francois St-Aubin designed the costumes for the Metropolitan Opera's current production of Der Ring des Nibe-lungen. Born in Joliette, Quebec, in 1961, he studied stage design at the National Theatre School in Montreal, where, encouraged by his teachers, he developed an interest in costume design.

His passion for opera goes back to student days. Around the age of 20, through PBS, he made the life-changing discovery of Patrice Chereau's Bayreuth production of Wagner's Ring, and set out to learn everything he could about this colossal work. Just as he finished theatre school, Yvonne Goudreau founded L'Atelier d'art lyrique de l'Opera de Montreal, and it gave St-Aubin some of his first opera commissions--La flute enchantee (1986) and Dialogues des Carmelites (1989). He also designed costumes for L'Opera de Montreal itself (Carmen in 1988 and 2005, and Macbeth in 2009), while developing his portfolio with such theatre companies as Theatre du Nouveau Monde and Theatre de Quat'Sous in Montreal and at the Stratford Festival, a place he loved and considered to be "a gem in terms of costumes." To date, St-Aubin, who has taught costume design at the National Theatre School since 1999, has dressed more than 80 productions.

He first collaborated with Robert Lepage in 2006/07 on Lepage's play, The Blue Dragon. When Lepage invited him to join his team for the Ring, St-Aubin says he was so excited he "couldn't sleep all night." The realization of his youthful dreams, however, also proved to be his greatest professional challenge, not only due to the high profile of the commission but also because of the new way of thinking required by Lepage's unique approach to creation. He likes to throw himself into the thick of things, entertaining any idea or hypothesis while "creating maximum tension" and forcing his teammates to go the extra mile.

In this environment, the journey from an idea to its realization involves a period of research, discussion, communication, experimentation, prototypes and a willingness to discard a proposal that proves technically unfeasible. Lepage's Ex Machina production company, based in Quebec City, is a true laboratory that inspires each team member from one meeting to the next. "My part," says St-Aubin, "is to do drawings, come up with ideas and align all forces and energies in such a way that things can come alive on stage."

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St-Aubin decided to introduce quite traditional costumes to Carl Fillion's daring set. "Because Robert wanted the public to be able to understand the Ring, we had to find a way of telling a complicated story in as clear a manner as possible," he says. …

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