On July 17, the 74th season of Austria’s Bregenz Festival will begin, kicking off a month-long celebration of opera. As in past summers, more than 200,000 people will descend on Bregenz, a lakeside town with approximately 29,500 human beings at the base of Pfänder mountain. Various performances—this season consists of versions of Don Quixote (one opera and one musical theater), a musical theater performance of François Sarhan’s Wunderwandelwelt, Arthur Schnitzler’s play La Ronde (so that you can also be completed as a live performance), Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, and a series of concerts called Musik & Poesie—take vicinity in 3 one of a kind locations. As is tradition, the prize display is completed nightly on a large level floating on Lake Constance, a nearly 40-mile-length lake on the foot of the Alps.
But the set for this year’s lakeside show—Rigoletto, a three-act Giuseppe Verdi tragic opera about a disfigured court docket jester looking to protect his daughter from a lecherous duke—is a chunk exclusive than the other staggering ranges preceding it. Almost every unmarried part of this level movements. “The project became truely to invent something that’s no longer been visible here,” says this year’s degree director and fashion designer, Philipp Stölzl. “That turned into a bit of a system; we threw our first idea into the trash can sooner or later and commenced once more from scratch. We ultimately ended with a design that offers a lot of movement and transformation, which is surely a fresh technique for Bregenz. Most previous productions had been as an alternative static, extra like sculptures.”
The first actual Bregenz Festival came about in 1946, while the metropolis didn’t have its theatre. Instead, the inaugural overall performance—Bastien et Bastienne—was done on barges moored on Lake Constance. One barge carried the level; the other took the orchestra. The lake stage on the Bregenz Festival has become protracted because of the inaugural event. In the 1991-1992 season, the set for Carmen appeared to emerge from a valley between mountains. Fidelio was completed within the 1995-1996 season, with a series of rowhouses stretched throughout the stage.
The 2001-2002 season confirmed La Bohème, with a huge cafe desk and chairs half-submerged in the water. The 2007-2008 show Tosca was set before a colorful projected eyeball; the level appeared in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace. Finally, Aida arrived at Bregenz for the 2009-2010 season, performing beneath a half-deconstructed Statue of Liberty. Last season, Carmen became accentuated via two massive palms throwing a deck of cards into the air; the playing cards changed through projections as they seemed to fall.
But the set for Rigoletto takes design to the acute, with a 45-foot-tall jester’s head flanked by palms, one keeping a balloon. Every part of the set moves except for the hand holding the balloon. To keep up the massive weight of the pinnacle (almost forty tons on its own and hitting about a hundred and fifty tons with the equipment attached to make it move), the stage is built on 119 wooden and metal piles driven nearly 20 feet into the lake bed. The hand on the left, powered by a hydraulic swivel, moves like a human hand and opens to approximately 37 ft tall. The frill around the jester’s neck seems to ruffle inside the wind. Speakers for the show are included in the set: 5 inside the head and the index finger of the proper hand.
“Bregenz is what every set designer desires to make. Everybody wants to paint at Bregenz,” stated Es Devlin in a 2017 interview while she designed that year’s Carmen set. “The photos of Bregenz at the moment are dispersed around the arena. Because of social media and the net, every person knows—they recognize the massive bust, they know the cafe desk, and those photographs have penetrated the way of life.”
Stölzl’s career started as a level designer’s assistant at the Munich Kammerspiele. He directed song movies for Madonna and films like North Face, Goethe!, and The Physician. But like many other degree designers, he continually dreamed of working at the Bregenz Festival. “It gives such a tremendous combination of monumental scale, huge target market, and innovative ambition,” he says. Now he’s realizing his dream—and executing a rather technical feat: a large color-converting balloon that flies up into the sky with fingers inside.