19 February 2020
Mayor, A. Hyatt. “Carpentry and Candlelight in the Theater.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 1, no. 6, 1943, pp. 198–203.
This article is a fast-paced history of the development of Western scenography and the opera house. It begins in Italy with Vitruvius, then moves on through Palladio, Serlio, Inigo Jones and others. It discusses the architectural design of famous historic theater buildings such as the Teatro Olimpico, the Farnese and La Scala. The article’s title stems from the scenic and lighting developments that eventually outpaced their architectural counterparts.
How does this relate to scenography?
This article’s subject matter is Western theatrical design and theatrical architecture. There are a few short references to non-Western forms.
Importantly, this article focuses directly on stage design and, in particular, lighting design. One important idea within the essay is that developments in lighting design inspired and necessitated developments in both scenic and costume design. It is exciting to see these subjects dealt with in tandem and as a unified whole.
One notable achievement of this essay is that it is able to condense a relatively long history into a short and memorable piece of writing that is easily accessible and useful to design students.
Scene from Maometto (Act 2, scene 7). Set design by Alessandro Sanquirico for the 1826 production at La Scala. Published in article.