Forty years ago, opera superstar Placido Domingo made his debut at The Metropolitan Opera in the role of Maurizio in Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, an opera that dates from 1902. The story is of love and betrayal, set in the 18th-century Parisian ambiance of the Comédie Française, where Adriana is a leading actress in love with Maurizio. The complicated four-act plot unwinds on and off stage at the theatre, as well as in a palace and at Adriana’s house.
“I got involved about four months ago,” says lighting designer Duane Schuler, a regular at The Met. “They decided to do the revival in timing with Domingo’s 40th anniversary, and the only time we had for the lighting was with the full company on stage with the orchestra. We did not have time to tech last summer.”
Another challenge was the use of the scenery from The Met’s prior production of this opera. “In the first act, just pieces of the old scenery are used and have been rearranged. Mark Lamos came in as the director and gave it a theatrical feeling.” Schuler points out that while some of the scenes have been updated, the third act ballroom in the palace—where a ballet divertissement takes place—remained intact.
What’s new is the use of two 6kW Pani projectors, which are cleverly used to add to the theatrical ambiance, with two upstage projections of the interior of the Comédie Française—one with empty seats; the other with an audience. “The Pani projections of violets in the final act are coupled with custom glass gobos with same artwork in Vari-Lite 3500s, slowly rotating to add a sense of movement,” says Schuler.
In the ballet scene, Schuler used “quite a bit of warm cross light on the people watching…and heavier color to warm up the existing scenery. You need color to keep it alive.” As there is no rep plot at The Met, Schuler was able to hang a lot of 5kW incandescent Fresnels with Scrollers. “HMI’s would have been too harsh on the scenery, and I needed the scrollers to make fast color decisions.”
“The crew at The Met is great and they said let’s just get on with it,” says Schuler, noting that Jeff Harris, formerly at New York City Opera is now assistant resident lighting designer at The Met, working with resident lighting designer Wayne Chouniard.
Schuler, who has designed 21 productions at The Met, including this season’s Thaïs and La Rondine, is also a regular at The Santa Fe Opera, where he will light La Traviata, Alceste, and the world premiere of a new opera, The Letter, based on a work by Somerset Maugham. Also on the Santa Fe schedule is a revival of Don Giovanni, which Schuler originally lit, but will be revived by lighting designer Japhy Weidman, a former assistant who spent five summers in the lighting department at Santa Fe, and is now an accomplished young designer in his own right.