The Advent calendar’s revenge

This is a model of Christopher Oram’s set for the Met’s new production of Don Giovanni (I wasn’t able to find a shot of the real thing, which has more railings.) It represents the return of 2008’s favorite set design fad: what I call the Advent calendar set (also known as Hollywood Squares). This set has multiple levels of little rooms, whose doors pop open and reveal people in them doing stuff. Here is a look back at its predecessors:

 Le Damnation de Faust (2008)

 Orfeo ed Euridice (2007) (no doors, but the same idea)

Peter Grimes (2008)

Doctor Atomic (2008)

The problem with these sets is that the little boxes don’t allow for enough room to do much of anything in except stand still, and the looming wall often leaves a shallow amount of stage floor. It’s a striking look and does more with the enormous vertical space of the Met’s stage than some other designs, but it often doesn’t help the drama.

Edited to add: I don’t think I invented the “Advent calendar” quip and was curious as to who did, particularly because Anthony Tommasini uses it in his Times review of Don Giovanni. The earliest example I can find is by the always-pointed Anne Midgette, in her 2008 Washington Post review of Grimes.

More on Don Giovanni later.

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  1. Everything comes around again. I saw a similar thing in the early '90s in a Deutsche Oper Aida (with the divine Ms. Varady, sigh.) No idea who designed/directed that one. But seeing all these together on this page is pretty remarkable, yikes!

  2. Ahhh, I see this is a not-uncommon collocation.

    Also, I probably should have written Advent, with a capital A? I guess I've been studying German too long and am not Christian enough to have realized this sooner. I'm going to correct it because it will make me feel better.

  3. you could take any number of similar sets, group them together and make it look like the designers are just ripping each other off. designing scenery is harder than it looks and lame critiques from people who don't really know what they're talking about isn't very interesting.