In his search for operatic and aesthetic unity, Stefano Poda encompasses the entire gamut of theatrical tasks: direction, set design, costumes, lighting and choreography.
His very particular aesthetic imprint has been admired the world over. His extremely original style in more than 45 productions have not only been very well received by opera buffs in theater as well as on television, but also by media critics who, as the Barcelona paper La Vanguardia put it, have called him “Stefano Poda: the prodigious magician”.
The Spanish newspaper El País wrote: “His exquisite sensually charged multilayered productions are conceptually challenging. He manages to combine his fast paced theory infused mind with his theatrical upbringing converting his ideas into captivating images. A mind that knows how to think in terms of stage, in terms of amazing lighting, a mind that creates magical costumes, able to direct and organize mammoth sets and characters resulting in a solid theatrical production, a little campy and mind twisting” (El País, Year XXII. Nº7.297).
In several published essays (“Stefano Poda, The Wise Aesthete”, in 1996; “Stefano Poda or the genial search for myth”, in 1997; “Samson and the laic baptism of Stefano Poda”, in 1999; “Stefano Poda or the new age Faust”, in 2001) Jaume Radigales labeled Poda’s style as “Tragically Decadent”.
Born in Trento, Italy, Stefano launches his career in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and as assistant to Beni Montresor works until 1993 in the most renowned world theatres: Verona’s Arena, Milano’s Scala, Rome’s Opera, Buenos Aires’ Colón, New York’s Metropolitan, Dallas, Bordeaux, Copenhagen ...
In 1994 he starts free lancing his own productions in several theaters in Spain (Palma, in Majorca, Menorca, Barcelona, Santander, Jerez de la Frontera, Oviedo, Sabadell, Reus) as well as in Portugal (Lisbon’s São Carlos Theatre), Italy ( Scala and Verona’s Filarmonico Theaters), Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador and Denmark.
His productions have been recorded and televised by Televisión Española (TVE-2, TVE-Internacional and Canal Digital), RTP Radiotelevisão Portuguesa, Channels 4,5 and 12 from Uruguay, Channel 13 from Costa Rica, Rede Globo from Brazil and Channel 13 from Catalonia) and received with great acclaim by television audiences.
Stefano Poda has been Opera Director, Set, Costumes and Lighting Designer, Choreographer for more than 45 productions, among which:
DON GIOVANNI (in 1995, with ten repeats in different European and South American theaters, transmitted three times by Televisión Española); DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE (in 1996, with seven repeats in Europe and South America, televised by TVE in Spain, Rede Globo in Brazil and Channel 4 in Uruguay); COSÍ FAN TUTTE; TRAVIATA; NABUCCO (which opened the 1995 opera season in Lisbon’s São Carlos Theater and was televised by RTP); FALSTAFF (in 1998, recorded by TVE and televised by Canal Digital); AIDA (three different new productions in 1998, 2001 and 2005); MACBETH (two productions in 2001, one of them in an open air theater); LA FORZA DEL DESTINO (2003); TROVATORE (2004); ANNA BOLENA (in 1997, with repeats in Oviedo and Montevideo, transmitted by Channel 33 in Barcelona and Channel 5 in Montevideo); MARIA STUARDA (1999); LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR; BUTTERFLY (two different new productions in 1998 and 2002); SAMSON ET DALILA (in 1999 with Dolora Zajick); OREO ED EURIDICE (in 2000, televised by Channel A in Argentina); MEFISTOFELE (2001); FAUST (2003); SERVA PADRONA; Menotti’s LA MEDIUM.
He was also Director, Set, Costumes and Lighting Designer, Choreographer for: Mozart’s REQUIEM (1999); Pergolesi’s STABAT MATER (2001); Faure’s REQUIEM (2004).
In December 1999, inside the degutted Teatro Solís in Montevideo which was going to be renovated, he creates The Twilight of a Century, based on Mozart’s REQUIEM, a performance of theatrical metaphors with over 300 actors.
In May 2001, he inaugurates in Montevideo, after 30 years of renovations, the New SODRE Theater with a grand new production of AIDA.
He is the author of CYPRESS ISLAND, a play for singers, actors, ballet dancers, chorus and orchestra, shown for the first time in 2002 to commemorate the 105th anniversary of Costa Rica’s National Theater and televised live by Channel 13.
Majorca’s Island Council devoted two exhibits entirely to Stefano Poda’s set designs and costumes, in 1995 and 1996. Another exhibit was shown in 1998 in Costa Rica’s National Theater and in Brazil.
Under his direction, Dolora Zajick made her debut as Delilah in 1999 and Giorgio Zancanaro as Nabucco in Lisbon in 1995. The following artists also debuted under his direction: Carlos Alvarez as Germont in 1994 and as Don Giovanni in 1995; Ainhoa Arteta as Donna Elvira; Josep Bros as Tamino; Ana María Sanchez as Donna Anna and as Bolena in Oviedo; as well as, Elisabete Matos, Milagros Poblador, María José Moreno, Miguel Ángel Zapater, Erwin Schrott, inter alia.
STEFANO PODA’S “TRAGICALLY DECADENT” STYLE
ACCORDING TO JAUME RADIGALES
Opera Director, Set, Costume and Lighting designer, Stefano Poda is one of the brightest minds in the opera performance scene of the past ten years.
Whether in Spain, Central or South America, Stefano Poda’s productions are smashing successes. Among his 45 productions, the most acclaimed by critics and theater and television audiences have been: Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, Cosí Fan Tutte, Nabucco, Falstaff, Samson and Delilah, Mephistopheles, Orpheus, Faust, Macbeth, La Forza del Destino, Trovatore, Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Butterfly.
True art blossoms when having attained his unique style the artist can still continue life’s never ending search and become an eternal struggler. Talent is measured according to the way the artist evolves, and the pinnacle of an artist’s career is attained when his creations are the result of a constant search.
Sincere in his concern for the world that surrounds him, in spite of his extreme romanticism which in all honesty overwhelms us a bit, Stefano Poda has revealed himself a true artist through music as a means of dramatic expression.
Endowed with a unique style which a while ago I dared label “tragically decadent”, Stefano Poda has evolved into a more austere artist devoid of unnecessary baroque edges with an obvious chromatic mutation from the initial darkness of his first sets to the omnipresent appearance of white. His style remains eclectic, multicolored and magical. His shows represent the “expression of imagination”. But it is by way of form that he expresses his professional search: a countdown mosaic traveling in time from Art Deco to Italian Classicism accompanied by delicate lighting compositions with Rembrandt overtones as well as ethereal flamenco veils.
Poda’s body of work emphasizes intelligence, as well as stylistic rigor and consistency at the service of the opera. This is the result of a long search and a profound intellectual endeavor that encompasses a deep knowledge of literature, music, philosophy and image representation.
Stefano Poda’s aesthetic expression is understood by way of where it originated. Trent, the Ecumenical Council city, has traced the path of a visionary who, starting with the visualization of liturgy, succumbed to theater’s charms. Myth and church iconography are obsessively present in his structural creations. Poda senses the opera simultaneously as a symbolic and an abstract fact similar to Gesamtkunstwerk. This sacral representation is expressed through stage metaphors that reflect an undefined past and play, in a sort of Proustian way, with dreamlike images and free flowing remembrances.
Stefano Poda has decided to voice, on stage, by means of his admiration and respect for opera’s greatest creators, the passionate inner feelings of man as an artist and of western genius without falling into the iconoclastic, unnecessary concession of something as “déjà vu” as a crude “adaptation”.
Mostly, this is what I have always liked in Poda: his undaunted search of everything that moves us, of everything that tends to stop time, even –when necessary- at the risk of delving into an immoral Faust-like abyss. And this is truly the crux of artistic creativity whose “raison d’être” is its social message. At the extreme opposite of Poda we have Calixto Bieito’s raw savagery (as expressed in the very controversial Ballo in Maschera shown at the Liceu theater) which is also searching for essence but in a more scatological and cruel Artaudian manner. If we were to play the comparison game we could say that Poda is to Visconti what Bieito is to Pasolini.
From modernity, but never from the emptiness of post modern times accustomed to immediate, short-lived sensations, Stefano Poda -the New Age Faust- rises in each of his creations as the earnest disciple striving to achieve the enlightenment of knowledge which we should all be searching for.
(from “STEFANO PODA OR THE NEW AGE FAUST”, Avui, Barcelona, March 20, 2001).