Riccardo Primo

Opera Theatre of Saint-Louis, 2015

Credits | Reviews  ⇓


Music by George Frederic Handel, 1727

Directed by Lee Blakeley

Stage and Costume Design by Jean-Marc Puissant

Lighting Design by Christopher Akerlind




Production Manager: Ryan Stephen

Costume Supervisor: David Burke

Images © courtesy of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Although Handel’s opera is set on the island of Cyprus during the Cruissads, it is a piece of political and religious propaganda celebrating his newly acquired English nationality and glorify King George II.


We have set our production in the time of composition so Richard the Lionheart’s triumph becomes George II’s coronation.


We underscored this with the medieval iconography presented in some popular modern computer games, imposing a false sense of ageless truth and violence. Cutting through the baroque form of the score, this allowed the production to take a contemporary physicality and pace similar to some actions films and cult TV series.


Chicago Tribume by John von Rhein

Jean-Marc Puissant’s elegant sets and costumes fused Baroque fashion and modern quasi-abstraction. “Lionheart” was a triumph for all concerned.


Wall Street Journal by Heidi Waleson

Jean-Marc Puissant’s shipwreck set loomed over the action, and his 18th-century costumes pointed up the difference between the “civilized” English and the piratical islanders.


Opera Today by James Sohre

The physical production was a thing of sublime achievement. Jean-Marc Puissant has devised sets and costumes that give significant pleasure. I loved the simplicity of the raked platform with the textured ground cloth. I loved the presence of the “artistic” ship wreck upstage in Act One, and the re-invention of that concept in subsequent scenes. Act Two might have provided a rustic hut for Peter Grimes had it not also included a royal throne. In fact, each scene uses “the shipwreck” as its visual inspiration. Puissant’s evocative, luxurious costumes were grounded in the century of the opera’s premiere, rather than the Crusades of Richard’s experience.


Broadway World by Steve Callahan

The beautiful costumes, by Jean-Marc Puissant, are from the 18th century; They are as King George himself would have seen them. (Richard, bewigged in disguise, resembles nothing so much as an ancient Voltaire.)

Puissant also designed the set. He places the singers in and around the immense dark hull of a wrecked wooden ship. The act curtain is a great canvas image of a lion, and a huge crusader’s cross serves as both a carpet and a banner.


Opera Chaser

The shipwreck features strongly throughout Jean-Marc Puissant’s inspired set design – a broken up vessel used in various ways to bring a strong sense of place in compelling yet simple ways, a comfortable metaphor for the tumultuous nature of events. The Cross of St George unfurls with potent effect and Puissant’s period costumes of muted tones – both bedraggled and refined – soundly fit the set, knitting together a series of stormy, undulating visual tableaux as watertight as could be.