Roger LaVoie Designs

Florestan by Jean-Paul Comelin

Poster from the production of 'Florestan'

Florestan (An Original Ballet in Three Acts)
Dancers: Jonas Kage and Leslie MacBeth

This ballet is set in the height of the Nineteenth Century Romantic movement in the arts.

Conceived and choreographed by Jean-Paul Comelin, this original three act full length ballet was the subject of the life of Robert Schumann the nineteenth century composer, and his relationship to his wife Clara Weick, an accomplished concert pianist of her day, and Johannes Brahms the composer.

Historically there is speculation of a love triangle between the two composers and Clara, and this, combined with the depressive nature and the eventual emotional collapse of Schumann is the basis of this three act story ballet. Robert Schumann eventually was institutionalized and it is at this point, when the marriage between Robert and Clara is unstable, that Johannes Brahms enters into the relationship.

The unit set was conceptualized with diverse romantic elements, such as large sweeping drapery and staircase, and a romantic tableau upper stage left of a grand piano, candelabrum, books, and a bust of Beethoven, all set on a checkerboard floor with interchanging backdrops for each act.

As the audience entered, they were confronted by a large front curtain painted on sharkstooth scrim which was an ode to eighteenth century music, from which the Nineteenth Century Romantic Movement evolved.

The front curtain for Florestan

Front Curtain

These are three conceptual sketches of Acts I, II, and III.

Conceptual sketch for Act I, The introduction of Brahms to Robert and Clara Schumann

Act I, The introduction of Brahms to Robert and Clara Schumann

Conceptual sketch for Act II, Schumann's delirium, set to

Act II, The beginning of Robert Schumann's delirium, set to his Opus 9 the "Carnaval"

Conceptual sketch for Act III, Robert Schumann in the Asylum

Act III, Robert Schumann in the Asylum

This ballet was first performed at the Milwaukee Ballet in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and subsequently rebuilt and mounted at the Malmo Stadsteater in Malmo Sweden, and then performed at Ballet Du Nord in Roubaix, France.

Front curtain on the show floor

Front curtain on the shop floor with scenic artists in Sweden.

Over the course of time the backdrops changed to become more representational as opposed to romantically abstract.

Florestan Act I backdrop

Act I backdrop taken from the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich representing a warm, welcoming and domestic feeling for the introduction of Johannes Brahms to Clara and Robert Schumann.

Florestan Act II backdrop

Act II backdrop depicting a mysterious moonlit night to accompany Schumann's Opus 9 the "Carnaval", setting a dark mood for mysterious caped figures to reveal themselves.

Florestan Act III backdrop

The Act III Backdrop was to indicate Robert Schumann's death and ascent into heaven, where he finally found peace from his depression and duality. In this act, he is in the asylum where a chorus of brides appear, his hallucination of many Claras in wedding dresses and veils which rapidly transform into ghost like figures or spirits, or even angels.

Florestan, picture of original drapery

A picture of the original drapery stenciled in gold on heavy muslin.

Design of the piano, piano stool, and bed

Design of period piano, piano stool and bed.

Design of the updage platform for Florestan

Design of upstage platforming.

Design of the candelabrum for Florestan

Design of candelabrum