Architectural projects take a really long time to complete. So famous architects often look for quick creative fixes — in stage-set design, for example. Philip Johnson and Santiago Calatrava both created backdrops for the New York City Ballet; and this summer marks the second year Rafael Viñoly has designed sets for the Bard SummerScape, this time for the first fully staged New York production of Richard Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae.
A New York resident since 1979, Viñoly grew up in a music-oriented family — his father was the director of the National Opera in Uruguay — and considered a career as a pianist before deciding to study architecture. “At a certain point, though, you have to make choices, some of which you come to regret!” he says. “But music has remained an important part of my life in general, and I’m grateful that I have been able to find a way to use what I know about architecture to create musical spaces.”
What motif did the architect choose for Strauss’s somewhat obscure Die Liebe der Danae? An architectural one, naturally — a cinematic backdrop of skyscrapers festooned with advertisement billboards. (The plot in a nutshell: Danae, whose father is bankrupt, dreams of marrying a rich guy and falls in love with Midas, instead of the god Jupiter, who, out of spite, banishes the lovers to poverty.) Viñoly tells Co.Design: “The images make reference to the contemporary setting of the never-ending tale of love and money.”
Viñoly also designed the sets for Chicago Opera Theater’s 2007 production of Claudio Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses. “Working on an opera is so different from the work we do as architects, which is limited by various requirements and a complex set of restrictions,” he says. “Working in the theater gives you the freedom for the creation of magic.”
[Images courtesy Cory Weaver]