Figaro's feminists: Q&A with scenographer Tracy Grant Lord

Figaro's feminists: Q&A with scenographer Tracy Grant Lord

The Marriage of Figaro's scenographer, Tracy Grant Lord, tells What's Hot New Zealand a bit about the aesthetic of this production, and how the themes of revolution can be conveyed through design.

What makes a good scenographer? I think you need a good understanding of scale so you can imagine people and objects in space and a broad-ranging vision for storytelling. Also, an awareness of harmony. The craft of scenography is about creating a complete world with all its intrinsic dimensions on stage, and harmony is about allowing provision for that world to then sing.

How does set and costume design help tell a story? Good design will honour the intention of the originators of a story – even when re-interpreting a story. If the spirit or essence that initially created the story is served honourably in design then you are helping to tell it. Research around why and when the story was told in the first instance is the beginning point. The social and political influences of that time and corresponding fine arts, architecture and photography all inform the design no matter where a particular current and singular concept can take it.

What can you tell us about the aesthetic of this production of The Marriage of Figaro? The director of the production, Lindy Hume, asked that papers, letters and contracts are the world of this opera and that the qualities of paper could become the unifying theme. She described the beauty and permanence of draughtsmanship and suggested that documentation, both architectural and legal, could literally become the parchment canvas of the storytelling. We spoke of the hand that scribes, writes, or plans a story on paper as the motivation for the language of the design. All presented in a minimal yet gilded period style to showcase a modernity of characters and their views within. As if we were re-imagining an old building and overlaying it with CAD.

Which character has been the most fun to outfit? I often don’t see one as more fun than another but more about the total fun that the costume collection of characters can bring to the stage. They can all bring the style to the story. They speak to each other as a group, and individually can describe their own circumstance.

How will the set design reflect the themes of revolution and love? The ability of the set pieces to be both ordered and chaotic, gilded and skeletal and their positions sketched out on the floor all contribute to the revolutionary themes. There are clear lines of struggle within the way the set is used. The love is more about the light, with the set design being the canvas for it.

Do you have any signature themes in your designs? I like to build a universal world appropriate for each story using contemporary classical or likewise classical contemporary as a signature theme. The stories we tell in performance range from mythical to tabloid and we can explore all levels of appropriate design relevance in between. Describing a story to an audience visually requires accurate curation of the relevant ideas within the work and inevitably results in a collation of new and old design forms – mixing it up to serve the story appropriately to an audience.

What was the first opera you worked on? As an apprentice I had the good fortune to work as an assistant on a few of the top ten before being given my first production which was La Traviata directed by Raymond Hawthorne at the Mercury Theatre in Auckland.

What music are you listening to at the moment? Anything that I can dance to.

Who’s your personal hero? Josef Svoboda.

Who’s your favourite opera performer? John Moore.

Can you tell us a behind-the-scenes opera design secret? Secret little pockets inside corsets for stashing a lozenge.

How does opera design differ from ballet and theatre design? The difference is within the very nature of the difference of performers and how they interact with the elements of design. Dancers, singers and actors all have varying specialised needs for their costume, shoes, floor, scenery, furniture and properties. Re-ordering priorities to suit these needs is the jump between designing for each genre.

Read our Q&As with the other women of The Marriage of Figaro creative team: Lindy Hume, Eleanor Bishop and Zoe Zeniodi.


Tue 8 Jun - Tue 13 Jul

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