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Theatre Arts’ Jacques Enjoys Return Trip To London

Published: June 1, 2011

Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera “The Tsar’s Bride” may have had its first night in London in, but it was the second visit as a lighting director to the city on the Thames for Theater Arts’ Professor David Jacques.

A member of the university since 1998 and winner of the 2006 Distinguished Faculty Scholarly and Creative Achievement Award, Jacques has designed more than 300 theater, opera, television, dance and special event productions including the English National Opera’s production of “Tosca” in May 2010 for his London debut.

Over the past eight years, Jacques, stage designer Kevin Knight and director Paul Curran have worked as a creative team producing new opera and theatre productions throughout Europe, Scandinavia, Asia and North America. The Royal Opera House’s production of “The Tsar’s Bride” is the latest in a series of successful productions mounted by this team.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Jacques, who added Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House to other critically acclaimed opera productions including “Tannhauser” at La Scala in Milan, “Daphne” at Teatro La Fenice in Venice, “I Lombardi” at Theatro Maggio Musicale in Florence and “Cherubin” at Teatro Lirico di Cagliari in Sardinia. “Normally, the only place you see Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘The Tsar’s Bride’ is in Russia,” he explained. “This was the opera’s first full production in London.”

Drawing on Curran’s specialist knowledge of Russia and the Russian opera repertory, this new production evoked a dark and threatening world where Tsar Ivan the Terrible selects a new bride only to see her die in a web of romantic and political intrigue.

“We updated this production to contemporary, corrupt Russia under Vladimir Putin,” said Jacques. “It opens in a nightclub ala ‘The Sopranos’ where we watch a man tied to a chair, tortured and murdered by a Russian mobster. Ivan is a powerful politician who is connected with organized crime. This is a story of innocents being destroyed by power.

“We have been enjoying great reviews from the international press, which can be challenging when you update a production,” he added. “You have to tell the story the best way you can.”

Jacques arrived at Covent Garden after 35 years in the profession and working with more than 200 directors.

“I am indeed fortunate to work with very talented and successful people,” he said. “It is essential to have a close relationship with your creative team. Kevin, Paul and I are extremely close both as artists and as friends. When you’re young, you work with everybody because you never know where those connections will lead. My career has reached the point now where I can’t do all the shows I’m offered, so I am very selective with the directors I work with. I only work with directors I am confident in.”

Jacques’ recent productions include “Lulu” and “Die Frau ohne Schatten” with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, “Tosca” with the Kirov at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” with the Canadian Opera Company, “Otello” with The Welsh National Opera in Great Britain and “West Side Story” with the Central City Opera.

Jacques’ designs for television have been broadcast on NBC, A&E and PBS. He also served as lighting consultant for Walt Disney Creative Entertainment and designed numerous projects for Epcot Center, MGM, and Euro Disney. In 2009, he returned from China where he designed the stage lighting for Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” presented in Hong Kong as well as at the new National Performing Arts Center of Beijing. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in stage design from the University of Miami in 1977 and a Master of Fine Arts from Southern Methodist University in 1980, where he was head of design at the Meadows School of the Arts before joining CSULB.

David Jacques' Return Trip To London

Besides teaching four undergraduate classes in theatre, Jacques also leads six students through an intense graduate training course. “Our students are trained as artists and as professionals,” he said. “I have taken CSULB students with me to shows all over the world so that they can learn on-site how to work with professionals. When they graduate from my program, they are prepared to transition right into the profession. Whatever area of professional lighting design they decide to go into, whether it be theater, television or architectural lighting, they have already experienced it here with me.”

A pair of CSULB lighting design majors will accompany Jacques when he visits Colorado’s Central City Opera this summer. Another student will travel to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands this summer for a production of “Peter Grimes.” A third joins him in Oslo in August for “The Magic Flute” and another travels to Tokyo this season for “Rusalka.”

Jacques recalls his first London show of “Tosca” at the English National Opera. “I lit a show for opera star Catherine Malfitano in Colorado in 2005, and when she became a director, we connected. She selected me for her lighting designer when she directed ‘Tosca’ in London,” he said. “We have worked together ever since.”

Regarding his experience at the Royal Opera House, Jacques states: “One thing that separates theater from all the other forms of art is the coming together of various craftspeople and artists. Everyone at The Royal Opera House takes an enormous amount of pride in what they do. It’s rare to find an organization where you can experience that level of professional pride that permeates throughout the entire organization but I found that at the Royal Opera House.”

Jacques thanked the university for its support. “There are many faculty members in this department and elsewhere who continue to work in their professions as artists and researchers. In my 12 years at CSULB, I have received nothing but support from the faculty members and the administration,” he said. “All these people, from the president to the chairs, have been extremely supportive of work outside the university. They see how it benefits the students, the community, and the university.”

Jacques maintains his enthusiasm after 30-plus years in the industry. “I do this because I love it,” he said. “People don’t work in the theater for the money. They work in the theater because they love it. Their true compensation comes from working with other creative people to make art.”