On Sunday February 17, 2019, a brand new adaptation of DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE aka ‘The Magic Flute’, the immensely popular opera by Mozart, premiered at the State Opera in Berlin. What makes this version of the piece, known to be performed simultaneously at multiple institutions across Germany (and the world) year after year, a must-see is two-fold. One: it’s directed by American Yuval Sharon, who was dubbed “Opera’s Disrupter in Residence” by The NYT. Two and most excitingly: the costumes are designed by none other than Walter Van Beirendonck.
As the Belgian designer and Antwerp Six member stated in an exclusive interview with KNOTORYUS last year, Yuval Sharon approached him looking for a designer “not afraid to look at things with child-like wonder”.
Walter Van Beirendonck (cont.) : “I've been travelling to New York and Berlin to set it all up. I like unleashing my imagination on these types of projects. Yuval Sharon contacted me to collaborate on this because he said he was looking for someone who could see ‘The Magic Flute’ through the eyes of a child. Someone with a very uninhibited and almost kid-like approach. That’s how he ended up knocking at my door. (laughs) He had the concept to take on the entire opera as a puppet theatre, where the opera singers look and act like inanimate objects. With his input and our brainstorms in mind, I’ve started designing. I’ve done a lot of research over the last months; I collect a lot of material that I think might come in handy. For the opera, I had all of the characters lined up next to their personality-traits and a few images that might serve as inspiration. Then, I start drawing. Sometimes it’s very free form and turns out to be nothing much, other times I end up with two or three great drawings in one day. Because I've digested so much information and worked on it in such a particular way, it just pours out.”
What sticks out year after year is Van Beirendonck’s admirable ability to jointly juggle and successfully finish multiple grand tasks. While fulfilling his calling/role of Headmaster at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp Fashion Department and showing season after season of strong and innovative collections at Paris Fashion Week (there is literally never a dull moment at a Walter show), the designer likes to work on what he calls ‘big projects’. 2016 saw the worldwide launch of his much coveted designs for IKEA, in 2017 he curated the acclaimed POWERMASK exhibition at Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, this year we all get to marvel at his unearthly and superb mind-warps coming to life at the State Opera in Berlin.
By the way, can someone get Elon Musk on the phone? A SpaceX starfleet by Walter Van Beirendonck is needed.
And what will Walter do next? All directions point to something incredibly exciting.