Contemporising Opera Through Design


Popular since the 16th century, many styles of theatrical setting have developed over time and could be reached through different mediums. Bringing one of the oldest performing art culture into the heart of the nation, Erza S.T., founder of the Indonesia Opera Society, implies a twist on its stage by adding design elements to accompany the timeless operatic night.

Story by April Ramadhan & Natasha Gan Photo by Bagus Tri Laksono

Erza has been directing the Indonesian Opera Society single-handedly for over a decade now. This year’s concert held at the Raffles Hotel Jakarta marks the 11th year of their anniversary. Since its existence in the country, the Indonesian Opera Society has made significant improvements in increasing the national appreciation towards classical music and opera. More and more people are becoming increasingly aware of the lively opera and look forward to attending such performance.

Each annual event holds a different concept that still builds on the core values of the society itself. This time he chose the new Djakarta Room at Raffles Hotel Jakarta that has a beautiful city view. Seats for the night’s 180 guests were upholstered in a deep red and beautified by gold ribbons, set in this room that has white accents and touches of gold. Gold-plated chandeliers lit up the vicinity and enhanced the contemporary ambience. The unique ballroom with its versatile nature was divided into an L-shape, thus creating an edgy format for such occasion. Like the rest of the hotel design, this room also carries the spirit of the great Hendra Gunawan colours and theme.

The highlight of this year’s opera was Erza’s vision to re-create an intimate feeling of watching opera like in the 18th century where the European nobility presented a soiree in their living room of their mansion. However, in this occasion, his approach on the interior design was far from the old-school. The performance stage stands a set of furniture pieces from Laflo Furnishing featuring the dramatic Nemo Chair as the piece-de-resistance, set next to wooden coffee table with a pop white monkey-shaped candle holder. “Every piece of decoration was well-thought out and complemented each other. They completed each other in a way that doesn’t overpower the stage itself,” says Erza.

Jakarta based lighting company Lex Atelier led by Robby Permana took it upon themselves to set the stage lighting for the opera. They understood that the existing chandeliers were not enough to create a dramatic feel into the stage act, so they installed high-tech spotlights on thin poles around the stage that can be controlled through an app on the mobile phone. Elegance and grace were two distinct characteristics that they stood by when devising the lighting plan.

Aside from Laflo and Lex Atelier design set, the contemporary living room is also envisioned through the flower design created specially by Priscilla Kayo from B Studio.

Using only local flowers such as banana plants, shrubs and orchids, Priscilla gave the strong accent that complements the overall design in a very subtle manner. She also continues this opera vibe through her contemporary flower design, where she decorated one of Laflo bookshelves into a dramatic centre piece on the foyer of the room. Erza has worked with the designer’s strength and combined into one overall concept that can bring his vision into reality.

The night was enlivened by opera singers from Armenia (soprano Gayane Vardanyan) and the US (soprano Hannah Moss) with our own award-winning tenor from Surabaya, Widhawan Aryo Pradhita. The ‘east-meets-west’ idea of mixing local and international performers goes in harmony with the design approach, where some furnishings from overseas designers were matched with local items. This is how Erza contemporised his opera performance through design and the society was thrilled with his move.

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Erza S.T.
Erza has pursued his great passion for opera and classical music for over a decade. His brainchild, the Indonesia Opera Society, has produced many classical music concerts and operas, and recently marked its 10th anniversary with a gala production. He is also a journalism lover focusing on luxury, lifestyle and travel stories, which he files from datelines around the globe.