Erhard Rom, associate professor of design in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Montclair State University, has designed stage sets for nearly 200 productions around the world. This year, he is a finalist in the 2015 International Opera Awards’ Designer of the Year category. He plans to attend the awards ceremony at London’s Savoy Theatre on April 26.
“I’m greatly looking forward to that,” Rom says. “The nomination is for all of my design work over the past year. I am truly and deeply honored to have been included on the list of only six designers in the world. The other designers are artists whom I greatly admire.”
“Erhard Rom is among the finest scene designers in the world,” says Montclair State College of the Arts Dean Daniel Gurskis. “At the same time, he loves being in the classroom and teaching scene design students at Montclair State. That combination of artistic accomplishment and commitment to our students is something we see throughout the faculty of the College of the Arts. It’s what makes the student experience here so vibrant and transformative.”
Rom’s set designs both complement and underscore each opera’s story. “Designing a space for storytelling involves a deep understanding of the text as well as the music in opera,” he explains. “It is always important to me that we find the most compelling context or setting for a piece, so that we can clearly reveal the meaning of that piece to a contemporary audience and make it resonate in a powerful manner.”
His designs evoke more than a time or a place. “I will typically strip away extraneous or decorative information in favor of strong, clear dramaturgical ideas that connect the environment directly with the text and subtext of the story the performers are telling.”
Staging an opera is a complicated collaborative process, according to Rom. “Directors and designers work together to shape a unique theatrical experience,” he notes. “I greatly enjoy this collaborative process because the influences we have upon each other often lead to surprising results.”
The annual International Opera Awards promote and celebrate excellence in opera and provide funding through the Opera Awards Foundation for the operatic community.
While this is the first year that Rom has been nominated for an International Opera Award, his design for the opera Silent Night, presented in Wexford, Ireland, recently received the Audience Choice Award and Best Opera Production of 2014 at the 2015 Irish Times Theatre Awards Ceremony. His work will also be included in this year’s Prague Quadrennial International Design Exhibition.
“I am absolutely thrilled to have been included as a finalist for the International Opera Designer of the Year award,” Rom says. “This is something I never expected would happen, so I am continuing to pinch myself.”