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Dim lights mask Strauss sets’ age

Los ANGELES Opera patrons looking forward to seeing David Hockney’s gleaming and colorful sets for the revival of Strauss’ “Die Frau Ohne Schatten” (which has four more performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion) may be a tad disappointed. The sets -- as Times music critic Mark Swed and others have noted -- are not being lighted as brightly as they were in the original 1993 production, shared with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

The lighting scheme has been changed because the sets have suffered “normal wear and tear,” L.A. Opera spokesman Gary Murphy says.

“Technically, the set is all ‘soft goods,’ which is a term used for anything that’s not a hard-surfaced set piece,” Murphy said last week. “This is huge fabric. It shows wear and tear after a while. That’s why most sets are not made of fabric. Those who saw the original production say it’s darker [now]. But the adjustments were made by [current lighting designer] Alan Burrett working with Hockney all the time.”

Hockney also had some problems with the lighting when the production made its 1993 London debut. In “That’s the Way I See It,” an installment of his autobiography that came out that year, Hockney wrote that a key rehearsal had been eliminated and so lighting errors were corrected only at the final performance.

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“I felt a very deep satisfaction on that last night and I thought, it did work,” he wrote. “It cost me a lot of money, but what does that matter? I did it, on one level, simply for my own pleasure.”

-- Chris Pasles


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