Preview of set for "Carmen"
Bregenz, 25 April 17. A giant pair of hands thrust up out of the water in Lake Constance. Playing cards swirl between them in mid-air, some of them bobbing on the water's surface. But everything is motionless – a card trick or sleight of hand frozen in time, like a monumental snapshot.
The spectacular stage set – featuring the colossal hands and cards – will remain motionless until 19 July when the Bregenz Festival's production of Carmen premieres. Until then, technicians will have their hands full completing the set on Bregenz's lakeside stage. A public presentation of the still unfinished set took place today.
It's not just the singers and performers who will supply dynamism on the stage. The set itself will also have many surprises in store for the audience – it can change its appearance and parts of the stage scenery can move. The bulk of the remaining technology jobs have to be completed by mid June, when rehearsals begin for the lake stage opera in the festival's 72nd season.
Since October, 18 scenery builders and technicians on the festival's staff and from contractor firms have been working on stage elements of superhuman dimensions on an extraordinary building site on the shore of Lake Constance. The stage set was designed by Es Devlin, a London-based artist who has designed stage sets for pop acts like U2, Beyoncé, Lenny Kravitz and Kanye West and spent two years elaborating the spectacular opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in Rio. She also works regularly for renowned opera houses around the world.
Es Devlin has worked with Carmen stage director Kasper Holten many times before. Presenting the programme for the festival, the Danish born director gave some revealing hints about the forthcoming production: "In one scene in the opera, Carmen wants to look into the future by having her cards read. That fateful occurrence, so decisive for Carmen's life, will be reflected in the stage set." Over the months this idea grew into a stage set that towers as high as 24 metres; the hands alone have a combined weight of about 44 tonnes.
Extraordinary opera in stunning natural surroundings
37 technology businesses, most of them from the state of Vorarlberg, are involved in building the Carmen set – for instance engineering firms, steel construction companies and diving companies. The total cost of building the set and taking it down again in autumn 2018 is seven million euros. Everyone involved is dedicated to staging extraordinary opera in stunning natural surroundings to captivate a big open-air audience night after night. In all, 28 performances of Carmen are scheduled at Bregenz Festival. Some 200,000 tickets are available for this summer's opera on the lake stage.
The 2017 Bregenz Festival runs from 19 July to 20 August. Tickets are available.