Porgy and Bess
The Metropolitan Opera opened its 2019/2020 season on September 23rd with a new production of the Gershwin and Heyward opera Porgy and Bess, directed by James Robinson. The first production to use the new Artiste Monet luminaires, lighting is by Tony Award-winning LD Donald Holder, the fifth opera he has designed for the Met since 2004 (The Magic Flute, Two Boys, Otello, Samson et Dalila).
Located on the Met’s repertory light bridges and at borderlight positions, Holder shares his experience using the Artiste Monet. “It’s a very powerful fixture with excellent colour rendering, dimming and optics,” he said. “Despite the high colour-temperature native source, we were able to achieve a fairly warm, natural-looking colour palette, certainly evocative of sun, candle and torchlight. The variable light to heavy frost option was extremely helpful when creating continuous backlight washes using several fixtures, or using the Monet for a single special with no apparent hard-edges.”
The scenic design for Porgy and Bess features a two-story set designed by Michael Yeargan that revolves to eight different positions over the course of 16 scenes. Populated by a cast of 93, who occupy almost every nook and cranny of the massive structure, Holder says, “I needed many fixtures from multiple locations that could carve out specific portions of the set with consistency and accuracy. The Artiste Monet accomplished the bulk of this work, and I was very pleased with the quality and repeatability.”
Citing the luminaire’s excellent colour-mixing and variable frost as important features for his design, Holder uses the Monets continuously in the production, constantly refocusing as the set revolves and changes configuration. He describes a special look he creates across the set’s complex sloped roof structure, located at a relatively short throw distance from the Monet’s position on lighting bridges. “Using the wide zoom optics and heavy frost options I was able to simulate a large brushstroke of sunlight glancing across all the rooftops using just one or two Monet fixtures focused from a singular, strategic location.” In another special look that takes place during the funeral of Robbins on a cold, rainy day, Holder created broad swaths of cold wintry backlight that etched the entire space, using the fixtures in open white and again with a wide zoom and heavy frost.
Holder thanks Resident Lighting Designer John Froelich for having the foresight to bring the Artiste Monet fixtures to the Met, as well as his brilliant assistant team of Aaron Sporer and Keri Thibodeau, along with programmers Ben Eells, Salvatore Nicosia and Max Lagonia.
The first production of Porgy and Bess at the Met since 1990, the show has proved itself a triumph with critics praising both the cast and production. Performances ran through October 16 with the production returning for seven more performances in early 2020.
Photos Credits @ Ken Howard