Ideas, sketches, and images from our Pacific Opera Victoria production of Macbeth

Workbook: Macbeth

From concept to model to construction, an idea takes shape. Here, we decided to riff on the Macbeth tartan, left, using similar lines in the model right. The lines then became large, heavy fly pieces for the stage, far right.

A similar pattern was created for the floor, left, using a high gloss paint. The result is stunning but tricky to light as there is a lot of bounce, or reflection off the surface. Lighting designer Alan Brodie, also has the difficult task of light all white furniture

Photo, left, from a cueing session shows how much light the psyche can take and how beautifully. The instruments below and in front of the psyche, hidden by the ground row, are new LED lights, which make millions of colours and spread light more evenly. Below, fearless leader, Pacific Opera Victoria conductor and artistic director, Tim Vernon, receives Order of Canada from someone.


Tartan patterns abound in our production. Left, Rennie Mackintosh, whose architecture and design was an inspiration for  the show.

Years ago we fell in love with Mackintosh design, when we visited Glasgow and the Art School there. Above left, one of the pieces that influenced out work on this show. We like the modern feeling but also the deep Celtic roots of the design; perfect for a fresh look at old Scotland.

Our Banquo, above, Alain Coulombe with perhaps the deepest, richest speaking voice we have ever heard. Right, a Dana Osborne sketch of his Act Two costume, when he appears, uninvited and quite dead, at the Macbeth banquet. He is all in white, which can not only take colour well, as his ghosts drifts across the stage, but also projections. As he moves, Jamie Nesbitt, our video designer, projects a ghostly chimera onto his frame, which makes him seem even more other worldly.

Above, a projection for Birnam Wood. By lighting behind the projection surface, soldiers can magically appear, as foretold.

Furniture and props take shape in the shop on Discovery Street. Left, a tree is painted, below left, a chandelier for the Macbeth bedroom and a Rennie Mackintosh inspired bed, which needs to be raked (tilted downward from back to front) for sightlines. Left, thistle pattern for Lady M bedspread.

Left, Morris discusses scene with Lady M, Lynn Fortin. Singers hold back their voices in rehearsal and with good reason, while character and story are developed.

Our Macbeth, Gregory Dahl. His costume, or part of it, shown above. Right, gowns for his pushy wife. Alexander McQueen was an inspiration. Because of the Mc and the Queen possibly.

Lady M gown, above and above that our Lady M, the gorgeous and talented Lynn Fortin. She and Greg have worked together before but neither with us. As this is only our fourth opera, we have limited knowledge of both the art form and the artists, but we love them and we are always impressed by the sheer amount of preparation they have to do before rehearsal starts. In the case of the principles here, the entire part must be prepared and ready ahead of time; the director and designers come later. The music always comes first. But they are performers, also, and thrive on artistic dialogue in rehearsal. Left, costume for protagonist MacDuff, Robert Clark, far left.

Above, Dana Osborne costume sketches for English soldiers, Scottish refugees, and Scottish messengers. There are about forty people in the chorus to costume, including supernumeraries. On a tight budget it can be quite daunting. But Dana costumed Moby Dick with us at Stratford so she can do just about anything.

Above, collaborators William Shakespeare and Giuseppe Verdi, separated by about three hundred years of history. Long before West Side Story, Verdi was turning Shakespeare plays into musicals. Below, Lynn Fortin, our Lady M, and her banquet gown.

Pictured above, The Royal Theatre, home to Pacific Opera Victoria, and right a lovely beach walk ten minutes away. Costume and head dress sketches by Dana Osborne and Ken for the witches. In the play there are three, in the opera there are fifteen. As with most things in opera, five times the toil and trouble. Far right, our inspiration. 

Costume designer Dana Osborne, we give her full props for this one, even though Ken did props. A hundred costumes, Curses.

Left, rehearsal photo, Morris directing chorus member, Lynn directing Morris. Above, table for banquet, with Rennie Mackintosh inspired detail. Right, rehearsing banquet with Pacific Opera chorus. Below, left, basic for bloody hand washing, throne, and banquet chair, with upholstery fabric, right. Further down, sketches and ipad drawings Ken did for the furniture. A double double busy time in Victoria.

In rehearsal Morris refers to his super tiny libretto, found in a cd of Macbeth. Directing in another language takes a certain amount of hubris.

Click here to check out the Pacific Opera Victoria website Macbeth page

Our video designer, Jamie Nesbitt, left, created images to overlay as projections on a scrim which hangs about one third upstage from the apron. Projecting these images, often with the set lit behind, creates a startling ethereal landscape for the scenes. We can also, with the help of the titles, identify the setting which for the opera purist is probably suspect but for the neophyte a helpful story guide.

Here, left an right, we see projections images for different scenes. Left a setting for Birnam Wood, right. the Macbeth castle, lower left, an eerie landscape for the Scottish border and lower right, a location for the witches. Jamie also provided pre-show credits which are projected onto the scrim, behind which the first scene with the witches appears, giving the effect of the beginning of a movie, something we have always felt sets an easy and familiar tone with an audience

Projecting onto a scrim surface means that by lighting anything behind it, we can layer two images. Below, we create a setting outside the castle by overlaying the video projection with Alan Brodie lighting behind. As you see here, we can also use text to describe a setting or anything we might choose. We have been working with projections since the premiere of 7 Stories in 1989 when we first projected credits onto the set

Coincidence? Having just finished Wanderlust at Stratford, Ken and Morris find themselves in Victoria in front of the actual bank where Robert Service worked. A photo of this bank was projected onto the set of Wanderlust. The bank is now a bar. Ken and Morris celebrated their thirty second anniversary on the road again.

Goodbye to creative team in Victoria. Celebrating the opening night, before the show, left, movement genius Wendy Gorling with videographer Jamie Nesbitt. Right, Dana, happy to be going home to her daughter in Stratford. Alan Brodie left for Vancouver two days earlier. Opening night is a chance to unwind for the team as this is the one night we can do nothing else but either fret or relax; usually a healthy combination of both.

Long time collaborator, Wendy Gorling, pictured left, joined us in Victoria to help with the choreography. Overcoatophiles will recall that The Overcoat was co-created by Morris and Wendy. Wendy is a student of LeCoq and an expert at movement and mime. She can take a grouping of witches positioned by Morris, right, and make them actually seem like witches. Her work is particularly apt for opera since chorus members are often non-professionals and Wendy is not only a fine movement coach but also a teacher at Langara College, in Theatre Arts.

We were happy to find out that Rebecca Hass would be joining us, as Lady in Waiting. Rebecca last played with us in Susannah at VOA and now lives in Victoria. Left, our Malcolm, Matthew Johnson, rising from the chorus into new prominence