For Lithuanian graphic designer and art director Tadas Karpavicius, his career provides a means for him to indulge his interests by working with a variety of clients from artists to architects or curators and cultural institutions. In a recent project, it was his regard for the opera that he was able to utilise, designing the catalogue for the Vilnius City Opera’s performance of Faust.
“Growing up I was always interested in books, symbols, CDs and cassette labels, signs, stickers and postage stamps,” the designer tells It’s Nice That. As his father worked in graphic design, Tadas discovered a love for advertising boards and hand-drawn type which developed into a curiosity for how text is laid out on paper. Currently based in Vilnius, Tadas runs his own independent practice largely focussing on typography, editorial design and identities while also guest lecturing at the Kaunas University of Technology.
“I had always wanted to do something for an opera house and so it happened that one of my friends shared a post from Vilnius City Opera on social media stating that they were looking for some work to be done for them,” Tadas explains. He got in touch and so the project began.
Faust is an extremely visual opera with elaborate and provocative scenes. Tadas describes how “the main story takes us to a time of decadence – a hedonistic era of devilish pleasures, entertainment and big religiosity.” Based in Paris, the opera is set in a world full of cabaret performances but, at the same time, extreme poverty. It was this specific and emotive tone which provided the starting point for Tadas’ design.
The catalogue is unusual in its execution, conveying the story in a symbolic and minimal way in order to reflect a more contemporary take on the opera. Having researched non-permanent forms and different typographic treatments, Tadas eventually gave in to experimentation and intuition rather than logical form. For example, monologues or speeches are presented in a conversational layout with the main speaker appearing louder than the rest.
This dynamic and exploratory approach was employed by Tadas as a way to reflect the Vilnius Opera House’s ethos as an innovator. Throughout the publication, the reader is lead through the content by the use of abstract forms that are strong and engaging: “This approach is riskier but creates fluidity and a more organic feeling,” explains Tadas, an art solution for such an expressive story.
To further set the work apart, the designer has incorporated a colour palette of rich green, black and silver. As an opera that is often associated with the devil, darkness, passion and lust, Faust is all too often represented by shades of black and red. With its reflective cover (to show that we are all “Fausts sometimes”) and almost janky layouts, Tadas’ design encourages engagement, inviting the reader to rotate the booklet and find hidden information, discovering a narrative beyond the stage.
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