Creating the world of ‘Romeo & Juliette’

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jul 23, 2014 - 19:37
  • Updated : Jul 24, 2014 - 11:14
The man who created the African savanna on stage for the Broadway musical “Lion King” is trying to revive his sense of a romantic, atmospheric setting, working on the world’s most famous love story, “Romeo and Juliette.”

In his first Korean venture, Richard Hudson is designing the set and costumes for the Korea National Opera’s upcoming production of “Romeo et Juliette” to be staged at Seoul Arts Center in October.

The Korea Herald on Monday sat down with the designer, who was in Seoul for a 10-day visit to present and materialize his designs for the operatic masterpiece.

His basic concept, the British designer said, was to create a beautiful set and costumes that befit the opera’s story and music.

Based on William Shakespeare’s play of the same title, the opera by French composer Charles Gounod is most recognized for its four beautiful duets between the lovers, as well as Juliette’s waltz.

“When the curtain goes up, I want the audiences to be seduced by what they see on stage,” he said. 
Richard Hudson speaks during a recent interview at the office of the Korea National Opera in Seoul. (Korea National Opera)

“One of the most famous scenes in ‘Romeo and Juliette’ is the balcony scene, which takes place at night. I imagined it in my head taking place in sort of a blue atmosphere with stars,” Hudson said.

For this scene, regarded as one of the most poetic and romantic exchanges between lovers, he drew artistic inspiration from an Italian chapel. He was struck a long time ago by Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy, with its beautiful painting on the ceiling and walls by Italian painter Giotto.

“The ceiling of the chapel is painted ultramarine blue with gold stars. And around the edge, it has these really beautiful colors ― creamy yellow and dirty pink. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the chapel. The combination of colors. ... It was just so beautiful,” he said.

Those colors are the main colors he has chosen for the set as well as costumes, he added.

While trying to make things look beautiful on stage, Hudson sticks with another basic principle, that “less is more.”

“I think the set should tell the audience just enough information. It doesn’t need to be just decorative,” he explained. “So, the set of Romeo and Juliette would tell us where we are and then just help the director tell the story.”

Born in Zimbabwe in 1954 and graduated from Wimbledon School of Art in the U.K., Hudson is an established production designer in the European and North American world of theater, opera and ballet. He has designed sets and costumes for many top-class opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The highlight of his career was the Disney musical “Lion King,” for which he won numerous awards including a Tony in 1998.

The Korea National Opera production of “Romeo et Juliette” opens on Oct. 2 for four performances at Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul.

Elijah Moshinsky, who helmed the KNO’s “Don Carlos” last year, will return as director for the production, while Julian Kovatchev will conduct the Korean Symphony Orchestra.

Renowned tenor Francesco Demuro will sing opposite Russian soprano Irina Lungu as Romeo and Juliette, with the other pair being Korean singers Kang Jung-woo and Anna Sohn.

By Lee Sun-young (