Jonathan Miller's handsome new production of The Rake's Progress at the Metropolitan Opera is set in the Berlin of the 1920s, a period between two wars. The sets by Peter J. Davison are loosely based on Hogarth paintings, and the lighting by Jennifer Tipton accents the non-realistic nature of the production. "I came in after the set was designed," says Tipton, who based her lighting on the highly stylized set design.
As Tom Rakewell sells his soul to the devil for fame and fortune, the action follows him from a pleasant country house to a jaded life in the city. Davison's version of the country house is actually a "tree house" or tall open structure with trees inside and leaves peeking out of the top. It is set on a raked stage and is flanked with two large panels referred to by the designers as "sky billboards." Tipton lit these with blue floodlights, or 1kW PAR heads with quartz lights, using Lee 161 for the darker scenes at the house and Lee 201 for lighter, clearer moments.
For each scene in the opera, Tipton went for a single look. "I knew it would not be a realistic production," she says, "so the lighting would be in larger strokes. I felt strongly about finding a look that was right for each scene--one strong, single stroke that is amplified." The individual looks blend into an overall "arc," as the LD calls it, with Lee 202 the basic tone for the opera's palette. She often used a Mole-Richardson 5kW fresnel with a Wybron color scroller as a single source from stage right.
This was augmented by Arri 6kW HMI fresnels when Rakewell moves into his city house (below). "There are two sources coming into his Berlin living room, sharp and cold, one through the window and one from stage right. The house in the country had a softer look," says Tipton, who was challenged by the three scenes set in a room with large windows. "I tried to find a different look for each scene," she says. Her solutions included the HMI for the first of these. Then as Rakewell marries Baba the Turk and his house is filled with an exotic collection of unusual objects, Tipton used light that bounced around from numerous sources. For the third scene in the house, as objects are being auctioned off, the lighting combines the first two looks. "The large windows are a challenge; there are difficulties in finding a position to have the light come through at a nice angle and not see the source."
In a brothel scene, where the costumes are red, black, and white, and the set is red, Tipton dimmed the Lee 202 to give it a warm glow, and added pink in the 5kW fresnel stage right. "Conceptually it needed to be dark and smoky," Tipton points out.
The designer also used a Robert Juliat 2.5kW HMI zoom profile and a 1.2k Arri HMI as well as ETC Source Four ellipsoidals and Ianiro cyc units, with seven hung high above the cyc on a pipe and seven more low on the floor. Ten Source Four PARs were also brought in to help light this production. "I took my inspiration from the sets," Tipton says of her lighting. And like Hogarth, her work is visually inspiring.