Irina Solomon

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Romanian Scene Designers: Irina Solomon
Romanian Scene Designers: IRINA SOLOMON
By Luminita Batali

Scenography is one of the most sensible signposts in evoking the style of an epoch. The Russian Ballets, for instance, cannot be conceived without the decors made by Bakst or, later, by Goncearova.
Scenography often represents also a landmark of a director's style; from Piscator to Brecht to Vilar and Visconti - the famous Italian director beginning as a stage designer as well as the Romanian Liviu Ciulei - this principle is well seen, being well known the affinities which are established between a director and a scene designer. A good show lasts not only through the memory of the actors' play but through its entire atmosphere, through costumes, make up, décor and ingenious machineries, therefore through anything which means scenography. For the Romanian theater which doesn't have, in spite of its fabulous patrimony, a museum worthy of its history, the costumes and settings, the preparative sketches count as keepers of memory and we'll constitute sure means of evoking unique creations of actors or directors.
Irina Solomon graduated the University of Arts from Bucharest at the beginning of the 90's signing the scene design for various plays, her career counting two UNITER prizes for scenography, together with Dragos Buhagiar…
The costumes she made for The School for Wives at the Small Theatre in Bucharest - director, Al. Dabija - were the work of a refined and sensual view. In the framework of a minimalist conception of the setting, with few objects and a restrained decoration (as the scene of the theatre doesn't allow depths, the scene designers Irina Solomon and Dragos Buhagiar appealed to transparent curtains which, superposed, like in the aerial perspective in painting, are able to suggest and optically increase the space of acting) it was important to have, in a Molière's play, a non-austere zone, less glacial and cerebral, the costumes part…
Jan Potocki's text, put on stage as The Manuscript of Saragossa, 66 days - director, Al. Dabija - bore a scenographic double signature: Irina Solomon and Dragos Buhagiar. There wasn't a fixed décor and, with the exception of a platform, the show focused on costumes and the light design, Irina Solomon creating here notable costumes, speaking of seduction and dangers. Aside the sure instinct of textures and for materials susceptible of best dressing an actor, of creating and visually sustaining a character within the general view of the show, what is specific for Irina Solomon's creations is also the preoccupation for their effective, concrete making. We can speak of a perfect scenic presence; their cut is always clear, the visual expression attentively built. One can detect, in these works– not only in costumes – the presence of what the Austrian art critic Alois Riegl once referred to as Kunstwollen. From here results the sentiment of authentic vocation which one feels when seeing the scene designs made by this artist. (In the Italian review Sipario there was reproduced an image from the show, presented in 1999 at the Berlin Theatre Festival.)
In 2002, Irina Solomon worked entirely the scene designs for the The Theatre Creator at ACT Theater and for The Lion in Winter from the National Theatre in Bucharest, but her most recent works were two plays: The Mrs. Ruth's Story or Argentinean Dreams by Mario Damient, with the director Moshe Yasur, at the Jewish Theatre and The Mocking Birds at Odeon, director Al. Dabija. For this first play, a delicate and melancholic evocation of the life of a woman hardly tried by history and destiny, the artist imagined the attic of a house (a symbolic place carrying everything we want to put aside or to forget) by creating multiple spaces for acting, able to successively animate the scene, in a constant setting situation, where plantation stays the same. These spaces, separated by dissimulated practicables which imagine different rooms (the childhood house in Warsaw, the seamstress's studio in Buenos Aires, the deck of a ship) are visually accomplished through the presence of sensible and thoughtfully placed objects who call to existence the entire pre-war world; a trunk, a gramophone, baskets, musical instruments…
For the play The Mocking Birds - a famous Romanian text from the '30 s - from Odeon, director Al. Dabija, the décor is signed by Vittorio Holtier, while costumes by Irina Solomon. As the director appealed to a less used procedure - using actors who play in travesty, interpreting two of the sisters - the costumes creation arose some difficult problems which Irina Solomon successfully solved. Zoica's costume, given the actor's physical data, it's an aesthetic accomplishment; the sober chromatic tones (the dress belongs to an old lady and the travesty must be well controlled, not only in performing but also through the vestimentary allure, avoiding the slipping towards cheap effects) follows the fashion of the time and it's made with little decorations; some feathers and accessories. ….
As well beautiful is the matron characterization which the artist created through the costume for the main personage, Aneta Duduleanu… The dress made of Bordeaux silk and black lace and also the main pattern is describing the provincial habits. The high bourgeoisie and the aristocracy of the past, are excellently evoked through the costumes made for the personage Colette…The actress appears in a water fall of day and night dresses, precious kimonos, feathered hats and jewels thus reminding, through style, of an entire world. Delicacy is the key for the way the costumes of the tragic personage are conceived… There is here a contrast between the robustness of the maternal family and the fragility of the feminine offspring, which was thought by the playwright and it's expressed with fidelity by the costumes design.
…The masculine costumes manage to intensely remind at their turn the between the wars Romania, through check material and other effects. We especially remark the suit of the elder brother, a mixture of peasant overcoat and boyar city dressing, mirroring the indecision of the mentioned personage with regard to his roots (at one moment Madam Aneta recalls of her daughter in law's reproach of them being „nouveau riche peasants“). The socially hybrid status, transiting between the country habits and the refined ones in the city, it's perfectly surprised by the maid's costume: a maid dress as in the high-class houses, but with rustic shoes in her feet.
The costumes created by Irina Solomon in The Mocking Birds characterize the personages with refinement and intensity and, in the same time, evoke and recreate before our eyes, in good accord with the settings signed by Vittorio Holtier, an entire world: a Romania impossible to be seen and recuperated today otherwise than through the brilliance of art.

For the entire article in Romanian see:
Scenografi romani. Irina Solomon - Luminita BATALI -Nr:120
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