Philipp Fürhofer creates opulent works of art from everyday materials, and works as set- and costume designer for the opera.
In the hands of Norwegian director Stefan Herheim, familiar opera’s are staged in radical interpretations. For the visualisation of the treatment of his next Tchaikowsky opera, Pique Dame, he has again involved German painter Philipp Fürhofer as his set and costume designer. Their setting of Onegin in 2011, with conductor Mariss Jansons at the Dutch National Opera, wowed critics and audiences worldwide. Fürhofer’s work, wrote the New York Times, is 'luxuriously beautiful'. In 2013, they worked together on Verdi’s ‘Les Vespres Siciliennes’.
Pique Dame is due to open on 9 June 2016 in Amsterdam with the Dutch National Opera, conducted by Mariss Jansons, at the Holland Festival.
Herheim’s views on opera and Fürhofer’s stage designs, are the result of years of in-depth research and conversations. For this, Philipp Fürhofer comes to Amsterdam often. It is now his first stay at Lloyd Hotel and he meets me in the morning, prior to showing the final stage and costume designs.
As a child, Fürhofer started to play the piano, and for a long time as he grew up, he hesitated between studying at the conservatoire or the Academy of Fine Arts. He chose the latter, became a painter, and finally established his studio in Berlin. For him, it is ideal to combine his painting and his commissions for set-design. Fürhofer: ‘My work as a painter is installational, and therefore team-work, so I am used to that anyway. I use stageing elements in my own work as well; lights are changing, and with that the perspective changes, so it takes time for the viewer to discover the idea of the work. Stageing and performance fascinate me. But I am not a typical visual artist doing sets like other superstars of the art world, who put blow ups of their paintings on stage. It can be very impressive but they don’t move, they are not theatrical. I try to find solutions through the piece.’
For Pique Dame, after elaborate research and hundreds of talks with director Herheim, they will put Tchaikowsky himself on the stage, who will lead the audience through the opera. What Tchaikowsky did is transform Pushkin’s novel playing in the 19th century and offering criticism of the position of the lower class and the negative effects of industrial revolution on it – to the Rococo frills of Mozart’s time. Fürhofer: ‘Tchaikowsky idealised Mozart’s world as a gay man who couldn’t come out. That is why the costumes look historical. We want to show a Rococo world influenced by the 19th century. During the evening the set breaks up to show an abstract concept behind the historical facade.’
As Herheim’s productions are known to be both revolutionary and intensely historically informed, and as Philip Fürhofer is one of his chosen set designers, this version of Pique Dame is definitely a production to look forward to.