Visual Concepts in Giver of Light: Julia Noulin-Merat, scenic designer

julia_noulin-merat-178x270When I first heard about Adam Robert’s piece I was incredibly intrigued: the story of Rumi set in a modern American environment – what could it possibly mean? I had just returned from Istanbul where calligraphy and Rumi’s poetry hold a magical place in the daily life, I was looking forward to getting my hands on the score.

Well here we are, a few weeks away from our World Premiere, and I am very much looking forward to seeing it all come together. My design collaborators are from the same brilliant team that brought you BOVINUS REX. Our director is Andrew Eggert, whom I have just worked with on CLEMENCY at Boston Lyric Opera.


We had our first design meeting during the Boston Blizzard in February, everyone was very much struck by how suburban and “American” the take on the opera was. I first kept referencing to the setting as a “The Stepford Wives” type of environment where Barbie and Ken are used to their daily life and the unknown is scary and alienating- a very plastic world.

Our second meeting, we dug a little further on the design concept and we looked at pop icon images. Those characters are very much archetypes and the context makes them feel as if they could be found amongst paintings and sculptures by the likes of Warhol or Lichtenstein.

LichtensteinRoy Lichtenstein

Warhol, Marilyn MonroeAndy Warhol

I haven’t mentioned the music ensemble yet, but as everyone who has seen a Guerilla Opera production knows, the players are very much a part of the story telling and Adam’s score lends itself very well to that.

InstrumentalRehearsalsPhoto by Andrew Wang

I don’t want to reveal what the design for the show is but, I can tell you we are creating a museum like world that allows the characters to exist in. We have a very special effect for when two of the characters reach “enlightenment.” I am curious to see how the audience will react when it happens. I did not forget the power of calligraphy and Rumi’s text work that had originally fascinated me in my travels; and you will see how we utilize that as a storytelling device as well.

See you very soon!

Julia Noulin-Merat
New York, May 7, 2013

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