“Without wanting to reveal all the surprises that Mario Martone has reserved for audiences in his production of Sancta Susanna, at a specific moment in the performance a monumental statue of Christ appears. The body is visible only as far as the pelvis. It evokes the burden of religious morality, intertwined with the themes of sensuality and sexuality which forms of the main themes of Mario Martone’s interpretation, both for Sancta Susanna and for “Cavalleria”.
The idea was to create the impression of sculpted and painted wood. We were inspired by a rather morbid, “suffering” Spanish Christ with droplets of blood trickling over his knees, similar to those found in the work of painter Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664) for example. The director also insisted that the nail be clearly visible to further emphasise the impression of suffering. He wanted the sculpture to look like an old crucifix from the 14th or 15th centuries. It had to seem to be in poor condition as if it had been manhandled, broken and patched up again.Just as painters sometimes do, to better represent the appearance of the human body – irrespective of its state –, we used a “cut-away”, or a model which allowed us to study the appearance and connections of the muscles and joints.
Five sculptors worked together to create the imposing eleven-meter-high Christ. The statue is sculpted entirely out of polystyrene and reinforced with resin and fibreglass on the outside for structural solidity.
For the perizoma – Christ’s loincloth – stage designer Sergio Tramonti wanted us to use a simple plastic tarp, like those used to protect floors during renovation work. This material, with its rather sordid and seedy appearance, goes well with the idea of a dilapidated crumbling old cross. It was also necessary for the loincloth to retain some of its transparency to reflect Susanna’s own turmoil.
Opera often makes use of statues of Christ. Even so, the originality of Mario
Martone’s approach lies in the fact that his crucifix is not just merely
decorative: He asked us to build it in such a way that at a specific moment in
the performance, Susanna could interact with it. What is the nature of that
interaction? What does Susanna do with the statue? I’d rather not say too much
as I don’t want to undermine the element of surprise…”
Interviewed by Juliette Puaux