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Adolphe Appia

1862 - 1928
"Most of what we call innovation or
experiment is a variation of Appia's ideas,
deduced from his original premises.”

“Theatrical history prior to Appia

should simply be termed 'B.A.', so
pervasive and lasting were his
- Lee Simonson, 1932
 Born in Switzerland,
Calvinist father
 An introvert, he theorized
and sketched more than
he staged
 Studied music, specifically
Richard Wagner’s operas
 Work influenced by Emile
Jacques-Dalcroze, founder
of Eurythmics
unity of the stage

 Anti-realistic staging
 Believed in simple, strong, and
suggestive sets
 Horizontal elements such as
steps, ramps, and platforms
blend with actors movements
 Relationship of actor, scene,
dialogue, music, and lighting
should create a unified harmony
 Depth of stage is important Act I of Wagner’s “Parsifal”. A 3-D design of
the sacred forest allows lighting and cast
shadow to create a sculptural quality
important to Appia.

s of
hierarchy of production

 Composer-Dramatist:
Writing dictates the rhythm and action required (the
score already creates the mise en scène)
 Designer-Director:
Single, highly sensitive artist carries out the hierarchy
“Projects” music into form in space
 Performer:
Serve as the intermediary between music and setting
 Space, Lighting, Color
Enhances meaning, not just to evoke realism
LIGHT: the soul of stage
 Light is a “fully expressive medium
in itself”, should not just
illuminate the scenery/actors

 Diffused Light: general undercoat

 Formative Light: more

concentrated, but subtle tool.
Can be used to highlight,
diminish, distort, and mould

 Movable and colored lights

created dimension

Appia’s Tristan and Isolde, Act I.

in the early 1890s, staged in Milan 1923.
C.W. Gluck Orfeo, 1912 in the Hellerau
From Richard C .Beacham’s ADOLPHE APPIA / artist and visionary of the
1912, Exhibition of
eurhythmic exercises at
Sophocles' Women of Trachis
Wagner’s Die Walküre, designed 1892, staged 1924
…What’s left behind

When he died on February 29, 1928, friend

Appia published two and follower Jacques Copeau accurately
summed up Appia’s radical reform of the
major books in his stage:

lifetime: "For him, the art of stage production

in its pure sense was nothing other
than the embodiment of a text or a
Music and the Art musical composition, made
sensible by the living action of the
of Theater human body and its reaction to
spaces and masses set against it."
(1892) and
The Work of Living
Art (1921)
The End