A while back I was contacted by Doug Tuck at the Vancouver Opera to illustrate four posters for their 2011-2012 season. Having seen a previous season's posters illustrated by friend and fellow Drawger Edel Rodriguez, I was honored to be selected for the opportunity.
The project proceeded pretty much like one would expect. I received the briefs for each of the four operas from AD Annie Mack and we decided to tackle one of the posters from start to finish before moving on to the others. We decided to start with Romeo et Juliet. Below are most of the sketches supplied. What I didn't know at the beginning was that there are major issues with showing weapons in advertisements and posters etc. This would prove particularly difficult given that the story is set in a violent environment with families feuding and lovers eventually stabbing themselves etc. Weapons weren't off the table, but they couldn't be the hero.
Among these sketches I was particularly fond of the top one here with the young lovers embracing with a rose stem in between them impaling Juliet with one of the thorns. I'm planning on taking this one to final just for kicks when I get a spare moment. I also liked the couple impaled on the feuding swords but those crossed the line with my Canadian colleagues.
I think we moved on from there to develop sketches for the rest of the posters. This next batch was for The Barber Of Seville. The story revolves around a goofball barber who distracts his rotund customer while his wife has an affair literally under his nose. Some of these sketches are pretty out there but somehow they felt appropriate to me at the time. I blame it on hallucinations brought on by a lack of sleep.
In the end I think we found the right idea. This poster has gotten some great nods from the Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, Graphis, and The Art Director's Club.
The Vancouver Opera was trying to mix things-up and tap into a broader audience by adding West Side Story to their line-up. As soon as I started thinking on this one I realized I was screwed. NO WEAPONS, and it was a story about opposing gangs who loved to dance almost as much as they loved to cut each other up with switchblades. I stumbled on the idea of these two lovers being separated by a chain link fence, but the fence would be made out of dancers.
Below are a handful of the mash-ups that ensued. The client chose the one with three figures jumping over the building but I pushed back a bit and got them to agree to use two versions. The large one below was my favorite, and of course it has a HUGE knife in it. The heart wants what the heart wants.
The client's pick for final.
My pick for final poster.
Then there was Don Carlo. This opera had it all. Too much, actually. There's the oppressive King who secretly desires the prince's lover etc, etc. There's a few key scenes where the lovers meet in a forest and also one that I was drawn to where they hide in the arched cloisters of an abby. Our final pick depicts that scene but within the larger context of the oppressive father/king.
A mere five minutes after getting the approval on the Don Carlo final I got a call from Doug Tuck at the Opera. "Don Carlo" is dead, he said. "The director is removing it from the line-up and we're replacing it with AIDA."
After the initial heartbreak (melodrama intended) I got to work on AIDA, the story of an Ethiopian princess who is stolen away to Egypt by soldiers where she falls in love with her captor. The client's major input on this one can be distilled down to 3 words, "Think big pyramid." We were pressed for time so I kept the sketches brief on this one. I liked all of these directions equally. Annie and Doug both agreed on the pyramid-as-cape direction and wisely suggested that the image was stronger without all the chariots.
The completed series.
A big thanks to Doug and Annie. They were a true pleasure to work with. I was unfortunately unable to go up to Vancouver to see them in person but the feedback has been very gracious. Many thanks for such a rich assignment.
ps- I thought it would add too much length to the post to describe how the elements were created and from what but I would be happy to answer any questions about that if anyone is curious.