14 August, 2009

Interview with Bernd Lepel from Admeto

Image: Admeto Photo: Theodoro da Silva

Admeto, re di Tessaglia re-imagines Handel’s operatic masterpiece in the world of the Japanese samurai. The production is both musically sublime and visually stunning. We talked to Bernd Lepel, the set and costume designer for Admeto, re di Tessaglia.

You began your career as a set designer in theatre but have also worked in cinema and television. What do you see as the main differences between these mediums and which do you most prefer to work in?
I would have given up one of these mediums if I wouldn’t feel the need of both for my work. Is opera stylisation? Is film realism? These are questions I have asked myself since the beginning of work in both fields. I will never find the answers, but I know for sure that the mutual influence is a great benefit for me.

You have worked in set design and production for over three decades. Can you describe the main changes in the field?
Significant on stage changes are ’cinematographic’ influences like projection or atmospheric lightning. In cinema, computer work has become very important over the years but one always is free to choose whether to use modern technics or not. You can still fascinate an audience with simple, hand-made stage design. People can also still be absolutely absorbed by CGI-free films.

You have collaborated with Doris Dörrie on several productions, what do you find most inspiring about working together?
Understanding each other is a rare gift, especially for artists with strong egos! When I met Doris for the first time we discovered our easy way of ’complicated artistic communication’. Coming from backgrounds of filmmaking, we both enjoy working for fleeting moments and lasting emotions on stage. Most inspiring is the process of forcing each other to to push further in our art.

What is special about this production of Admeto, re di Tessaglia?
I have always been fascinated by Samurai costumes, Kimonos and their history. It is intriuging that they are practical in a way, but completely unpractical on the other hand. The dressing ceremonies, with all those amazing binding technics together with some agonizing ways of wearing shoes, create a unique and special type of behaviour and attitude.

Where did you take your inspiration from for the amazing costumes you have created for Admeto, re di Tessaglia?
It isn’t the look of costumes so much as trying to find an unique costume profile for each character. Alceste and Admeto for example are almost wrapped in an enormous amount of fabric to give them a strong static appearance.

Have you been to the Edinburgh International Festival before?
I´ve never been to the Edinburgh International Festival before, but years ago when I was working on a movie production in Glasgow I made a trip to Edinburgh. I had deep impressions by this city which was almost like a surreal microcosm for me. This amazing northern light seemed to had found its ideal architecture and city topography to create a magic theatrical scenery which one will find nowhere else then here. I’m excited to come back.

Admeto, re di Tessaglia will be performed on 28, 29 and 31 August at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. Tickets are available from eif.co.uk/admeto.

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