Josef Svoboda (1920-2002) was an eminent Czech scenographer who first trained as an architect in Prague and later studied scenography at the Prague Conservatory. His most famous works are those produced for the Czech National Theatre where he held the position of principal designer for over thirty years since 1948. Yet, plenty of his productions was destined to theatres and operas all over the world.
His productions were revolutionary in the use of a combination of live actors and filmed scenes and for his introduction of contemporary materials and original special effects. Signature elements of his ever-changing environments were projections and later closed-circuit television monitors, which allowed a scene to be to multiplied in space and time. Another key feature were mirrors, sometimes enormous and used to reflect and distort the stage floor. The influence of set designer Adolphe Appia is visible in the strong presence of architectural elements such as majestic stairs and platforms.
During the course of his life, Svodoba designed over 700 scenographies and multimedia installations.
When I sit alone in a theatre and gaze into the dark space of its empty stage, I’m frequently seized by fear that this time I won’t manage to penetrate it, and I always hope that this fear will never desert me. Without an unending search for the key to the secret of creativity, there is no creation. It’s necessary always to begin again. And that is beautiful. Josef Svoboda.
Images via The Red List