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Opera Gets The David Hockney Treatment

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Video published January 28, 2011 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: This weekend, the San Diego Opera opens their 2011 season with Puccini's "Turandot." Although this is a tale of love in Imperial China, the sets are far from traditional. KPBS arts producer Angela Carone went to rehearsals to find out what is unique about the set design.

This weekend, the San Diego Opera opens their 2011 season with Puccini's "Turandot." (Turin-DOT) Although this is a tale of love in Imperial China, the sets are far from traditional. KPBS arts producer Angela Carone went to rehearsals to find out what is unique about the set design.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

THIS WEEKEND THE SAN DIEGO OPERA OPENS THEIR 2011 SEASON. ALTHOUGH THIS IS A TAIL OF LOVE, THE SETS ARE FAR FROM TRADITIONAL. ANGELA TAKES US TO REHEARSALS TO SEE WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT THE SET.

WE NEED TO GET IT SORTED OUT.

Reporter: THE SETS FOR SAN DIEGO OPERAS ARRIVED FROM CHICAGO IN FOUR TRAILERS.

ANYBODY THAT HAS NEVER SEEN THE SCENERY ON THE TRAILER, THEY THINK NOT WHAT THE ASK THIS PILE OF JUNK.

Reporter: HE HAS BEEN PUTTING TOGETHER OPERA SETS FOR OVER 40 YEARS.

BY THE GREEN, GUYS.

THEY HAVE TO BUILD THE SET IN JUST THREE DAYS. IN TIME FOR THE FIRST DRESS REHEARSAL. HE SAYS THE SET IS A GIANT PUZZLE COMING OFF THE TRUCK.

YOU START TO SEE THE WALLS AGAIN AND STAGE FLOOR AGAIN ASK THE PIECES GO UP IN THE AIR AND IT STARTS TO MAKE SENSE.

Reporter: TURN DOT IS A LOVE STORY. THIS IS THE THIRD TIME SAN DIEGO OPERA STAGED IT WITH THIS SET. PETERS ADMITS THIS ONE IS UNIQUE.

IT'S BOLD, YOU KNOW, IN THAT KIND OF MODERN BRILLIANT COLOR STYLE AND IT'S NOT FUSSY. AND YOU HAVE TO BE BRAVE TO DO NOSE BOLD STROKES.

Reporter: DAVID IS A LEADING FIGURE IN MODERN ART. CALIFORNIANS MAY RECOGNIZE FROM HIS 1960s ERA LANDSCAPE.

WE CAN TALK ABOUT HIS SWIMMING POOLS, INTEREST IN VERY MODERN ARCHITECTTURE AND SURFACE OF WATER IN POOLS, SHOWERS, SPRINKLERS.

Reporter: HE IS ALSO INTERESTED IN SET DESIGN. HE WORKED IN THEATER AND OPERA FOR THE LAST 30 YEARS. HE TAKES IMPERIAL CHINA AND ABTRACKS IT.

IT DOESN'T LOOK JUST LIKE CHINA, AT ALL. IT'S NOT LACQUERED OR GOLD OR DELICATE. IT'S REFERENCED THROUGH THE WAVES OF THE TILE ROOF. YOU ARE IN THE IMPERIAL COURT.

Reporter: LISA IS SINGING THE ROLL OF THE PRINCESS. WHICH SHE HAS DONE MANY TIMES BEFORE. IN 2009 SHE WAS IN A PRODUCTION AT NEW YORK'S OPERA. THAT WAS DESIGNED BY FRANKO.

HE HAS SO MUCH GOING ON. IT'S A CHALLENGE TO BE THE CENTER CHARACTER. IN A WAY. AND I FEEL A LITTLE BIT LIKE A SILLY SINGER, HAVE TO COMPETE AGAINST THAT SET.

Reporter: WITHOUT COSTUMES AND SETS, SHE SAYS IT CAN BE DIFFICULT TO TRANSFORM HERSELF.

HOW TO BE REALLY CHINESE. LOOK AT ME. I AM NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BEING CHINESE. TRANSFERRING FROM THAT LESS FORMAL ENVIRONMENT TO THE STAGE IS REALLY WHERE OUR LIFE BECOMES REAL, OUR STAGE LIFE BECOMES REAL. ONCE YOU WALK ON TO THE STAGE IT'S SO MUCH EASIER TO BE THAT CHARACTER.

Reporter: IN THE MEAN TIME, JOHN DAVID PETERS LEADS HIS CREWS THROUGH ASSEMBLING THE SET.

WHEN YOU DO THIS DON'T PUT IT OVER HERE, RIGHT THERE.

Reporter: HE SAYS SOMETIMES THE PRESSURE GETS TO HIM.

ARE THE TRUCKS GOING TO BE HERE. ARE WE GOING TO BE ABLE TO PUT THIS TOGETHER. WHAT IF THE GUYS DON'T SHOW UP. WHAT IF, WHAT IF.

BUT THEN AFTER LONG HOURS AND THE MAD RUSH, IT ALL COMES TOGETHER. THE STAGE TURNS INTO HIS FAIRY TAIL VERSION OF IMPERIAL CHINA.

WHEN IT HAPPENS, AND WITH THE LIGHTING AND THE AUDIENCE, IT'S MAGIC. IT'S PRETTY SIMPLE STUFF, REALLY.

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