Ralph Koltai

Ralph Koltai CBE RDI is Britain’s senior and most celebrated Theatre Designer.

Remarkably he has embarked on a new and impressive challenge, returning to his roots as a 3-dimensional artist, creating a series of bas-relief sculpture / collages.

They are mostly made from found objects on farms near his studio in France. He selects panels or pieces, predominantly metal, and dissects them in a compositional form. He is working energetically, currently to a total of 40 works. Although they are not in themselves narrative, many spring from his former theatre designs that were themselves concieived in a similar manner. A sheet of rusty metal became a wall in Simon Boccanegra, a polished dish and sphere became the entrance to Caliban’s Cave in The Tempest and the root of a tree became the setting for Howard Brenton’s play The Romans in Britain.

His present work has evolved from his life-time approach to his stage designs and remarkably show how a true artist will create and re-create. Mostly they are wall hung, some others displayed on plinths.

Ralph Koltai was invited to make a walkthrough sculpture to form the entrance to the British pavillion at the Prague Quadreniale in June 2007. In 2010 he had an exhibition of his Metal Collage work at the Royal National Theatre.

He is currently working on a Figaro Trilogy for Welsh National Opera, Cardiff. The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro and a new opera entitled Figaro Gets a Divorce will premiere in February 2016.

At the same time, he will have an exhibition of his Metal Collages at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Pamela Howard, OBE FRSA

Ralph Koltai CBE RDI


Biography

Ralph Koltai is generally acknowledged as the principal innovator of British Theatre Design.

Hungarian by descent, he served with British Intelligence at the Nuremberg Trials and on War Crimes Interrogation at the end of the Second World War.

He subsequently studied at the Central School of Art and Design in London and became head of Theatre Design (1965 – 1972). He has since designed some 250 productions of Opera, Dance, Drama and Musicals throughout the world.

As Director / Designer work includes The Flying Dutchman and La Traviata, Hong Kong Arts Festival (1987 / 90), and Suddenly Last Summer, Nottingham. Thirty Productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company where he is an Associate Designer. Work for the Royal National Theatre includes, amongst others, a notable all-male production of As You Like It (1967 and San Francisco / New York 1975). Over one hundred Opera productions include the Brecht / Weill music drama, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogany for Sadlers Wells Opera under the guidance of the legendary Lotte Lenya, the original Jenny in 1928, and a major Ring Cycle (1970-1981) for the English Opera Company under Reginald Goodall.

Among a string of awards he was made a CBE in 1983 and is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Performing Arts, Kong Kong, The University of the Arts, London, The Royal Society of Art RDI (Royal Designer of Industry), The Rose Bruford College, Kent and the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts.

Publication: His book; Ralph Koltai – Designer for the Stage, was first published in 1997. A revised and expanded edition was published in 2003.

Exhibition: Stage 2 Metal Collage 2002 – 2010 – The Royal National Theatre, 2010.


Chronology

1924 Born in Berlin on 31st July 1924
1939 Granted British entry visa
1945 – 1947 Enlisted Royal Army Service Corps, attached to British Intelligence. Naturalised British Citizen
1948 – 1951 Studied at Central School of Arts and Crafts and obtained a Diploma with Distinction
1963 – 1966 Associate Designer with the Royal Shakespeare Company
1965 – 1972 Head of Department of Theatre Design, Central School of Art and Design
1967 London Drama Critics’ Award: Designer of the Year for As You Like It and Little Murders
1975 Gold Medal for Stage Design, Prague Quadriennale International Exhibition of Scenography
1976 – present Associate designer with the Royal Shakespeare Company
1978 Society of West End Theatres’ Designer of the Year Award: Brand
1979 Golden Triga National Award, Prague Quadriennale International Exhibition of Scenography
1981 London Drama Critics’ Award: The Love Girl and The Innocent
1983 Awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
1984 Elected Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) of the Royal Society of the Arts
Society of West End Theatres’ Designer of the Year Award: Cyrano de Bergerac
1987 Silver Medal for Stage Design, Prague Quadriennale International Exhibition of Scenography
1991 Golden Triga National Award, Prague Quadriennale International Exhibition of Scenography
1993 Special Award for Distinguished Service to Theatre, United States’ Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT)
1994 Elected Fellow of the Academy of Performing Arts, Hong Kong
1996 Elected Honorary Fellow of The London Institute
1997 Retrospective Exhibition at the Lethaby Galleries, London Institute
1998 – 1999 Retrospective Exhibitions: Bejing, Hong Kong, Taipei
1999 Elected Fellow of the Rose Bruford College, London
2003 Golden Triga National Award, Prague Quadriennale International Exhibition of Scenography
2007 Honorary Degree, The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
2010 Exhibition of metal collage sculpture work at the National Theatre, London

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