in one of the most important Italian and European scenic construction workshop …
In the last 9 years I’ve been working as a designer and technical director in one of the most important Italian scenic construction workshop. The Mekane ltd has a 2000 sqr metre workshop and a workforce of 25 permanent employees – that can grow to 45 depending on workloads – with departments of carpentry, metalwork, painting, sculpture and tailoring.
Starting as an intern, I’ve been recently been appointed as technical director and designer of all sets realized by Mekane ltd. During these years I’ve designed and supervised the realization of more than 60 set designs both in Italy
and abroad, more than half of which were commissioned by prominent opera houses such as L’Opera de Lyon, Metropolitan Opera House of New York, Opera Comique of Paris, Teatro San Carlo of Naples, Teatro Real of Madrid, the Hyogo Performing Art
Center in Japan.
In the last 2 years I’ve realized the construction drawings of 8 opera productions,including “Parsifal” produced by the Metropolitan Opera House and Opera de Lyon, and “Così fan tutte” produced by Teatro Real of Madrid. The first required the drawing and realization of a 150 sqr metre wide movable platform. The platform had to open in two parts between the first and the second act to show a pool filled whit blood like red liquid, at the same time when two 12×16 metres flats on trucks would be moved on stage. The second entailed a meticulous drawing and execution to follow the director choice of a hyperrealistic output of the set elements, such the use of real crystal and thepresence of a real flame inside a fireplace.
During the years working for Mekane ltd I’ve alternated the design of wooden structures following the typical Italian construction tradition of big platforms and flats, with the use of structures in materials like iron and aluminium that allow to build bigger structures at the expense of some flexibility and speed of assembling. More often the integration of the two construction systems proved to be the most effective solution, taking advantage of the qualities of both.
Multiple have been also the solutions and typologies of materials asked for by the set designers both for the technical elements and the finishings of the scenes: polyethylene, ethafoam (polyethylene foam), polystyrene, polyurethane, foam,
fiberglass and polyurea with brush or spray, gomma liquida also known as “pappone” (artisanal plaster based on a mix of vinilyc glue, stucco and meudon white), not to forget more traditional techniques such as painted canvas.
I’ve designed and supervised the realization of monumental sculptures such as a cyclopic head (10 metres high) for the “Aida” of Dante Ferretti at the Teatro comunale di Firenze, arcimboldi style statues for the Milan 2015 Expo (7 models of 3,5 metres
high full figured statues for a total of 34 copies), naturalistic elements such as a secular olive tree 6 metres high for the 2010 Shanghai Expo, 200 spr metres wide grass and corn fields, props such as the main chandeliers for the new cinematographic version of
Cinderella (directed by Kenneth Branagh with the production design of Dante Ferretti) where the central chandelier reached the diameter of 3,5 metres and the hight of 6 metres with more than 800 crystal chains and a total of 15.000 glass drops.
It has been often my duty to find the various contractors for construction materials, including tree foliage and glass drops for the chandeliers, to study the assembling, andabove all to calculate in the planning phase the exact quantities of products necessary for the production phase (requiring often more than 15.000 units).
Every project I have designed or supervised had a deadline of delivery that could not be extended with high penalties for every day of delay. Often set designers or theatres asked changes or small adjustments until the very end, which required working at rapid
pace, including nights and weekends, in order to meet the deadline. Moreover, working with multiple clients, more deadlines would often overlap, increasing work pressure and the necessity to organise and coordinate different
departments, external contractors and material suppliers.
My role for every work covers the entire production cycle of a the set design. It starts with the first contacts with clients, the study of the draughts and designs, and goes on with the estimates of the costs and the preparation of preliminary studies and reports
in the case of public bids. It continues with the research of suppliers, the comparison of estimates with market prices and previous buys of Mekane, the executive planning, the coordination of department forepersons, the verification of the work including the
sampling approved by the set designer. It ends with the pre-assembly in the workshop and almost always with the assistance during the assembling in theatre.