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Portal curtains at the Mariinsky


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#1 innopac

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 03:06 AM

I read that these curtains, originally designed by Golovin, are painted.

Does anyone know anything about the process of painting them or the material that has been used?

In this post Jeannie Szoradi mentions that for a performance of Cinderella the curtain was changed. Does this happen very often?

"The sunshine went into hibernation on Saturday, the second day of the ten-day festival. That did not seem to dampen the spirits of the audience, who entered the auditorium of the Mariinsky Theater to gaze upon a shockingly modern front curtain. Tonight, the flouncy blue-and-gold curtain by Golovin was replaced by a black-and-white depiction of New York City skyscrapers, thus portending an unusual night of dance from this usually ultra-traditional ballet company."



#2 rg

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 05:57 AM

i don't know the technical aspects of painting these curtains, but they were traditional in 'italian' style? (if that's the correct term) opera house design all through the 19th c. (and for all i know earlier).
in practical terms i suspect these are decorative versions 'fire curtains' the stiff (asbestos?) fireproof 'wall' put in place to divide the stage area from the auditorium.
so each would start out more or less like a blank canvas. these remained down behind the 'house' curtain, which is the fabric, often swagged velvet affair that opens and closes to allow curtain calls, or any 'closings' inbetween a production's individual acts.
the portal curtain in place at the maryinsky was designed by golovine in a red scheme; virsiladze changed the scheme (in the 30s?) to the blues we see today.
the alexandrinsky i believe had a curtain painted w/ apollo's chariot.
the paris opera at the garnier has a painting of red curtains swagged by golden trimmings.
individual designers of various productions might choose to design and paint what i think is called a 'front curtain' to close off the stage for a particular work and to cover scene changes with something decorative and complimentary to the overall design scheme - these are not as sturdy as the 'fire curtain' variety that remains in place more or less permanently in these opear houses, such decorative curtains are sometimes even painted on scrims so once a scene is ready to start it can be first seen behind the curtain once the front light is extinguished and the back lighting can make the curtain translucent.
(if i'm not mistaken some 'fire' curtains are just plain, white expanses printed with the words: FIRE CURTAIN. i think the ROH at covent garden is plain.)
as for how the decroative painting is done, i would imagine this was accomplished in the opera houses' scenic workshops where all the painting of the individual productions was done. the maryinsky's i believe is in the buildings upper most floors.
the following book might include some nuts & bolts techinical information:
The continental method of scene painting, by Vladimir Polunin, edited by Cyril W. Beaumont. London, C. W. Beaumont, 1927

#3 innopac

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 12:02 PM

Thank you so much, rg, for the clarification and the reference.

#4 Catherine

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 06:17 AM

I just wanted to answer the last part of Innopac's question. The only other Mariinsky performances that replace the portal curtain are the Forysthe works (which begin with the curtain already up as you enter the house) and the Fokine program, which presents the Byzantine-looking "Ballet Russes" curtain (a Moor with a sword, a Scheherezadian woman and other figures woven inside the letters themselves).


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