You have designed both the costumes and, with Guy Cassier, the sets. What is the relationship between these two elements?
Does Balzac's Comedie Humaine also underpin your work?
Although your prints are, for the most part, abstract, they nevertheless seem to have been nourished by various references. What are your other sources of inspiration?
Could you tell us about your designs for the principal characters?
protean aspect of Trompe-la-mort justifies his having several costumes. I still
aimed to create a logical progression so that one could follow him and
recognise him in spite of his disguises. His silhouette has a very clerical
aspect, - a reference to the Abbé Herrera whose identity he usurps. Black and
white predominate, with large, very graphic patterns denoting great dynamism.
Lucien is the character with the simplest, most austere costumes. He starts off
in a shirt but little by little dons clothes intended to help him in his social
ascension. He tries to conform to that aristocratic society for which I
produced the condensed images that I was telling you about. They are repeated
and multiplied so that patterns constitute a visual mass in which the content
is submerged. As for Esther, she is isolated, remote from everything. She is an
incarnation of purity and beauty. To translate that, I wanted something very
readable which is why I have associated her with a huge flower, a narcissus.
The Ball marks the beginning of a noticeable evolution in the costumes. At this
point, all the soloists have different costumes, certain elements of which are
difficult to identify. Are they period costumes? Evening dress? It’s rather
confused … Little by little, this aristocratic society begins to take off these
pieces, clearly revealing the codes belonging to their rank. Then the other
soloists make their entrance in the world of society drawing rooms where the
women show off their dresses. Progressively, a certain uniformity emerges,
which, by the end, when everyone is wearing the same costume, becomes complete.
I find it very interesting to show the eradication of individuality and the
malleability of personality through the wearing of an item of clothing.
That leads one to wonder about the very nature of clothes and their function…
Clothes help to structure you and place you in a social category. They play an
essential role in our quest for acceptation and integration within a given
What does the décor tell us about this social structure and the passage from one rank to another?
idea of statistics and of social mobility as our basis, we reflected on a
structure in which the characters would be positioned in accordance with their
social situation. It is the world around them that determines their worth. We
have thus used the axes of a graph within which the entire plot unfolds.
Movement is very limited. It is the scenography that determines the singers’
movements, that activates them. It is the stage that propels them into the
right situation. The ascending and descending totems give them access to a
particular status or deprive them of it. The different levels of the libretto
could not have been shown in a conventional manner.
Was it this idea of slipping from one level to another that brought you to Gordon Matta-Clark?
It is a
coincidence. I’ve always found Matta-Clark very interesting. I must say that
his work is very close to the reflections that a director might have on the
very essence of theatre, on the dividing up of his performance space and his
conception of his work in terms of truth and illusion. Guy and I had for some
time been considering creating a project that would make reference to his work.
On reading the libretto with its social hierarchies, we told ourselves that the
time had come. That’s when we had the idea of using the architecture of the
Palais Garnier and cutting it up. The intention was also to offer spectators a
mirror reflecting an image of the space they have just traversed and are now
occupying. The stage brings them back to their own experience.
Does music play a role in your creative process?
Interview by Marion Mirande
Your reading: The Cutting and Shaping of a New Work