Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Scenographer

Spell check says it’s not a word, but I say it is. Those who work in photography are called photographers, right?

I don’t see Daiva Samajauskaitė (left) very often. Rumor has it that lately she spends the day combing through the dense forests of used clothing at the many second-hand stores throughout Vilnius in search of the perfect costumes for all the soloists, chorus members, and dancers who will be on stage during the premiere of Julius. And I believe it, because when I do see Daiva, it’s usually when she slips into rehearsals with armloads of bags filled with clothing – derby hats, faded pants, old button-up shirts, suspenders, and plenty more. Other times she’s walking around with measuring tape and fabric samples, checking sizes and comparing colors. The photo to the right shows a post-rehearsal costume sampling for members of the chorus.

This is all costume work, but even before I arrived in Vilnius last week, Daiva had already finished with stage designs for Julius. Her designs are being realized right now and should be ready with plenty of time to spare. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I will tell you there are elements of the costumes and scenery that are historically accurate and others that come from Daiva’s imagination. Together, however, I think these elements will achieve the goals of depicting the time as well as communicating the underlying themes of the story.

Daiva graduated from the Vilnius Academy of Art and has since been working as a scenographer and costume designer in opera, theater, and film in both Lithuania and abroad. Her work was a part of last year’s NOA Festival in the opera Izadora, written by composer and singer Jonas Sakalauskas (to give you an idea of how intimate the music world in Lithuania is, consider these 3 things about Jonas: he is one of the founders of Operomanija [the NOA Festival organizers], he is married to Agnė Sabulytė [the soloist in Izadora], and sings alongside Tomas Pavilionis [the tenor singing the role of Julius] in the pop-vocal group El Fuego). Parentheses and brackets aside, these pictures are a sample of Daiva’s work from Izadora. Photos by Marius Macijauskas.

After working on Julius in relative solitude for the last few months, I can’t tell you what a treat it is to suddenly be in an environment filled with so many people this familiar with the music, story, characters, and so many other details, and who are working so hard (every day since I’ve been here, in fact) to make the premiere a success. It’s really taking a sizable army of artists and performers to bring this opera to life and I couldn’t be happier to be in the midst of it all.

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