“To be a stage designer you need two indispensable things: an eclectic and vast cultural background and knowledge of stage design techniques. These are two inseparable aspects which individually are not enough to do a good job.
This is what Franco taught me”
According to Carlo Centolavigna, set designer and teacher at the International Centre of Performing Arts “Franco Zeffirelli”, a good set designer is a curious eclectic, passionate about any artistic form that can express the soul of an era. Only on such fertile ground can fruitfully “take root” that technical knowledge that allows the set designer to design a production “that works”, that doesn’t betray the text, and that satisfies him.
These are the principles that Carlo Centolavigna has learned in over 35 years of his career, many of which he has spent alongside Franco Zeffirelli, his teacher and mentor.
Carlo Centolavigna: The Beginnings
With Zeffirelli he had his first important opportunity at La Scala in 1983, where he worked on the construction of the props for Turandot. He then followed him to Florence in 1985 for Traviata at the Municipale with Cecilia Gasdia and on the set of Otello, his first experience in cinema, where he worked with Gianni Quaranta.
It was during the filming of Otello that Carlo Centolavigna was commissioned to organize the personal library and the vast archive of Zeffirelli, where the testimonies of his work are kept, which, already at the time, were the result of over 40 years of his career.
Little more than 2 years pass and Carlo Centolavigna is at the Met in New York for the staging of the 1987 Turandot: “a huge opportunity” for the young Centolavigna, who is in charge of the construction of the props and acts as Zeffirelli’s stage assistant.
At the Maestro’s side
Between 1988 and 1992, Centolavigna’s experiences continued unabated alongside the Maestro: he was responsible for the revival of the set of Lila de’ Nobili’s Aida for the 1988 film Young Toscanini, then again assistent set designer at La Scala for Don Carlo in 1992, and for 1993 film Sparrow.
In 1998 with Aida in Tokyo he was with the Maestro as a collaborating set designer and worked on Tea with Mussolini and Callas Forever, where he was in charge of the sets for Carmen. He was with the Maestro as a collaborator for the latest version of Traviata at the Arena di Verona in June 2019.
Carlo Centolavigna: Currently in Europe and worldwide
In parallel with his professional relationship with Zeffirelli, he established himself as an independent set designer in Traviata and Elisir d’Amore in 1990, and for Director Giancarlo Del Monaco in productions for major theatres in Italy and the world, including Andrea Chénier at the Opera Bastille in Paris and Madrid, Francesca da Rimini in Zurich and Paris, and Simon Boccanegra in Zurich.