Spanish Starchitect Calatrava Tackles Designing Sets for NYC Ballet

Santiago Calatrava

Santiago Calatrava has often been called the mostlyrical of the current crop of starchitects. Today, the New York CityBallet announced that it will give the Spaniard a chance to apply hisarchitectural and engineering skills to the most lyrical of theperforming arts.

NYCB’s ballet master Peter Martins has invited Caltrava to designseveral multi-functional stage sets for four world-premiere balletsduring the company’s spring season, which begins on May 4. The sets areexpected to embody Calatrava’s recurring themes of movement and flight,an inspiration made visible in his work for the Milwaukee Art Museum,whose roof sports two steel “wings” made of 36 fins that can open whenthe wind off Lake Michigan isn’t too stiff, and his design for thetransportation hub at the World Trade Center, whose spiky roofline wasinspired by the idea of a child releasing a dove.

By designing for the ballet, Calatrava joins an elite company ofarchitects. Philip Johnson was the only previous architect to beinvited to design for the ballet, and that was way back in 1981.

Fittingly, the ballet’s season is centered around the theme of”Architecture and Dance.” It will feature seven world premiere ballets,and four commissioned scores, all dedicated to Lincoln Center’s 50thanniversary. Architecture will be a theme outside the halls as well, asthe arts complex is nearing the completion of its multi-year rehab byarchitectural firm Diller Scofidio and Renfro.

Calatrava’s set designs will be the staging for ballets by BenjaminMillepied, premiering May 22; Melissa Barak on June 5 (for whose balletfashion designer Gilles Mendel will create costumes), Mauro Bigonzetti,premiering June 10; and Peter Martins, premiering on June 22. TheMartins work will be set to a commissioned score for violins byEsa-Pekka Salonen, formerly of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and nowwith the London Philharmonic.

Calatrava’s sets will be built in a warehouse in Manhattan.

[Photo by Martien Mulder]LT