Exhibitions

December 2012/January 2013

Stefan Lazarides: Costume and Theatre Designs

by David Jays, The Guardian, Sunday 16 May 2010 (extract)


For some, opera describes private passions, voicing individual desires and tragedy. For others especially directors and designers of the late 20th century opera is an idea. It strikes sparks when characters run against their turbulent society, acting like lightning conductors for a culture's stress points. This was the ethos of Stefanos Lazaridis, who has died aged 67 of cancer, one of the most striking, and possibly most influential, opera designers in Britain during the last 30 years.

Working throughout Europe, but especially at English National Opera (ENO) during the 1980s, he created bold, theatrical, argumentative designs. "I never start from the visual," he said, "the stage picture has to follow from the idea, as an inevitable consequence of it."

Born to a Greek family in Dire-Dawa, Ethiopia, Lazaridis was educated in Addis Ababa and Geneva. He came to London in 1962 to attend business school, but instead studied design at the Central School of Speech and Drama. His first professional design was for Tennessee Williams's Eccentricities of a Nightingale (in Guildford, Surrey, in 1967), and his first opera a pulsating Carmen for director John Copley at Sadler's Wells Opera, north London, in 1970.

Early designs were noted for opulent naturalism, including Copley's Marriage of Figaro (1971) at Covent Garden, assailed by scorching sun from without and gasping passions within (a youthful cast included Kiri te Kanawa).

Later Royal Opera productions were less happy: Idomeneo (1977) saw conductor Colin Davis clash with German director Götz Friedrich. Lazaridis's style was in transition. An Aida drenched in gold paint and described as "grand opera gone wild" (ENO, 1979) was a turning point. He stripped back the production for touring, but the decisive shift from decorator to conceptualist came when he worked with visionary Russian director Yuri Lyubimov. Their Tristan and Isolde in Bologna (1983) was a revelation: "Like moving house, because I suddenly discovered all the things I did not really need about me on stage."

His stage pictures did not become stark, exactly Lazaridis was never minimalist but everything would now have an ideological as well as atmospheric purpose. Not everyone liked the style Piero Cappuccilli, due to sing the title role, walked out of Lyubimov's Rigoletto in Florence, set in a crypto-fascist state.

Lazaridis then returned to ENO and was appointed associate director in 1986. The company was led by a questing triumvirate: general director Peter Jonas, conductor Mark Elder and director of productions David Pountney, their provocative tenure known as the "power house". Although Lazaridis had a reputation as fearsomely expensive, it was poverty that forged the house style. A zero-budget series of unfamiliar operas developed, the management team claimed, "a rumbustious, iconoclastic production style".

A disappointment towards the end of his career was his brief post as artistic director of the Greek National Opera (2006-07), inviting ballerina Lynn Seymour to head the ballet company. Their ambitious ideas caused a stir, but were met by resistance and timidity. This was not a response that Lazaridis, a self-described "cynical romantic" could brook. He is survived by Tim Williams, his partner of 47 years.

David Pountney writes: Nowadays it is quite common for designers to direct, and, to be honest, most of them can't. Stefan couldn't direct either he did try once or twice but his great significance as a designer is that he always designed as a director. You could also say that he designed as a dramaturg the interpretation of which would be that for him the idea of the staging was always a greater priority than the way it looked: that would logically follow once the idea was clear.

We did a lot of work together at ENO, including some of the best productions of that era - Rusalka, Hansel and Gretel, Dr Faustus and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Mostly I can't remember now who came up with which idea a sign of a productive director/designer relationship. I do know, however, that the design for Lady Macbeth sprang instinctively out of Stefan's head, and gave me the idea of the meat-packing factory that provided such a striking image for the Soviet society we chose to depict. That's a typical example of the way we worked: we led each other, confused each other, and sometimes sorted each other out!

However the three most astonishing designs by Stefan that may be less familiar to British audiences are those for the three lake-stage productions we did for the Bregenz festival: Flying Dutchman in 1989, Nabucco in 1991 and Fidelio best of all in 1995. The opportunity to work on this scale somehow triggered Stefan's most sensitive dramaturgical instincts, allied to his phenomenal aesthetic sense and understanding of scale.

These were never to him mere designs: he participated in a total way in the ideological and conceptual realisation of these productions and set up marvellously productive counter-flows of creative energy. Everyone who worked on these shows was inspired by his creative drive, as well as by his cussed determination. And I was the lucky one who had a good enough relationship with Stefan to soak up his ideas, edit them I hope intelligently, and gratefully implant them into our own production.

Much of this intelligence, sensibility and brilliance emerged during his brief abortive attempt to run the opera company in Athens: the Greeks have themselves to blame that they squandered such an astounding talent. His was a unique fire.

Stefanos Lazaridis, stage designer, born 28 July 1942; died 8 May 2010
Paintings purchased in monthly exhibitions receive a complimentary 10% discount.


Theatre Design
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Theatre Design

Stefan Lazarides

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Collage

Theatre Design
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Theatre Design

Stefan Lazarides

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Theatre Design
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Theatre Design

Stefan Lazarides

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Stefan Lazarides

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Costume Designs

Stefan Lazarides

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Stefan Lazarides

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Works on Paper: Gouache

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Stefan Lazarides

Greek

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Costume Desigm

Stefan Lazarides

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Works on Paper: Mixed Media

Costume Design
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Costume Design

Stefan Lazarides

Greek

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Works on Paper: Mixed Media

Costume Design
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Costume Design

Stefan Lazarides

Greek

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Works on Paper: Mixed Media

Costume Designs
Available

Costume Designs

Stefan Lazarides

Greek

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Works on Paper: Mixed Media

Costume Designs
Available

Costume Designs

Stefan Lazarides

Greek

Unknown Date

Works on Paper: Mixed Media

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