How I Spent My Summer: Sven Ortel

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The University of Texas campus was quiet over the summer, while students and faculty spent their time working on projects around the globe. The College of Fine Arts was no exception. Students and faculty from all three departments took advantage of the break from coursework to pursue research, teach seminars or test the waters of a future career. Here is a glimpse into what happens when classes end, and the fun begins.

Sven Ortel, Design and Technology lecturer, provided video for the European premiere of the opera “Svadba,” at Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in France. He then traveled to Las Vegas to work on the set of Mat Franco’s “Magic Reinvented Nightly.”

Cast photo in Theatre Jeu De Paume at the opera festival in Aix En Provence. Kate Ducey is second from the right, and Sven Ortel is third from left kneeling on the floor.Tell me a little bit about the places you've been for projects this summer. The two shows sound very different — opera and magic. Is it difficult to transition, or does it make the work more challenging and exciting?

The difference between locations and genres is very exciting to me, and also very stimulating creatively.  Every geographic place a production is created also finds its way into the design language. The beautiful Provence countryside and way of life was quite relaxing, and thus the design for “Svadba" was very understated and elegant. The (Las) Vegas show on the other hand is being created in the middle of The Strip in the middle of bars, casinos, restaurants with 24/7 service, music and gambling. So the design is noticeably more declared and visually bold.

What was one of the highlights or memorable moments from the summer?

There were many. Working with good friend, colleague and wine connoisseur Marcus Doshi in France was a blast every day. On the off days in Aix-en-Provence we went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and afterward had long dinners outside in leafy public squares. My family came down to visit me, and it was wonderful to share this occasion with them. On the way back to the states, we took the scenic route and climbed down from the glacier of the Matterhorn, which was another stunning change of scenery.

You had students working with you. What do you hope they take away from the summer?

I hope they learn about the process and skills required in my profession within the context of professional, high-profile productions. The opportunity to witness their professor interact with other professionals within that context also provides very valuable insight for young designers. It’s theory put into practice.

Amid all the traveling and hard work, did you get a chance to have some fun in France or Las Vegas?

Oh yes—of course. There were memorable meals, swims, bowling and hiking, but I also really enjoy my work a lot, and actually working with the grad students was a lot of fun and very rewarding.

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