PETER CAZALET

ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in a mining town in Zambia with no access to culture of any sort, followed by a restrictive six years at a church school in Johannesburg, I finally escaped to the University of Cape Town to spend six hedonistic years to scrape together an Architectural degree.

At the same time I caught the theatre bug and got side tracked into UCT Ballet School. Sailed steerage to England to continue my dancing career and lived a hand to mouth existence with various ballet companies.  After ten years I became principal dancer with the Scottish Ballet; in the meantime earning extra money designing ballets and drawing cartoons for Dante & Dancers and some off beat choreography.
After a couple of years of achieving a smidgen of fame as a dancer and designer – “Second best ballet designer in Britain – The Times” (who was first was the question), my career was cut short by an injury and I returned to Cape Town in the 70’s.

I began designing ballet for CAPAB, which went on to include Opera, and on becoming Head of Design, was given a studio and staff, and a wide variety of productions.  I finally found time to design in South Africa and Britain, then the USA and the East (Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore) and New Zealand.  This lasted until the end of 2009, with an interruption of the cultural boycott of South Africa in the 80’s.

By this time, I had accumulated many drawings.  My fascination with the design process was always with the different approach needed and excitement engendered during the creative period.  I immersed myself in each new challenge, if necessary changing style and technique in a chameleon-like way.  The final result on stage gave greater or lesser pleasure if everything in the long process worked out well.

I have now settled into a quiet retirement in Sedgefield with the time to relish the delights offered locally.

COMMENT FROM TRENT READ
Knysna Fine Art is proud to present an exhibition of the costume designs for opera, ballet and theatre by Peter Cazalet.

Mr Cazalet, now retired, was for decades one of the most distinguished theatrical designers in South Africa, London, the USA and the Far East.

These exquisite designs, often incorporating swatches of fabric, are decorative in the extreme and must be seen by those with an interest in costume and theatre design; interior designers and art lovers alike.
They make wonderful presents and we have no doubt that they will be a very fine investment indeed.

PETER CAZALET COMMENTS ON FIVE PRODUCTIONS:
Rigoletto by Verdi was presented by the Cape Town Opera in the 90's.
Metal and perspex set of cells and bridges; with lots of smoke shafts of light to look ominous and dangerous. Brilliant colours for the decadent court and lots of silver and black to reflect this tale of revenge and tragedy.  Rigoletto, the hunchback court jester to the Duke of Mantua keeps his beloved daughter Gilda away from the corruption but she is murdered following a series of unfortunate misunderstandings.
                 
Merry Widow by Franz Lehar was presented by the State Theatre Opera in the 90's in Johannesburg and Pretoria. 
The brief was to give it a sophisticated 30's look, which is my favourite period. Unfortunately the sleek line of the costumes did not always get seen to the best effect on some of the chorus. The delightful lead singers looked great in the fun story of Pontevedrian diplomats coercing the playboy Danilo to woo Hannah, newly widowed and rich, to save their bankrupt homeland.  It all ends happily in its modern Paris setting.
Death in Venice by Benjamin Britten, based on the Thomas Mann novel, presented at the State Theatre in the 90's.
The sets and costumes of the 1910's were very well received. The look was to reflect the feel of sepia photos of the period, which became quite difficult when trying to find material for approx. 200 costumes. The story involved the tragic infatuation by writer Aschenbach for a Polish youth, Tadzio, at a Lido resort and a fatal plague imminent.
                    
La Traviata by Verdi was presented by the Cape Town Opera in the 90's.
This the story of the high living courtesan, Violetta, in 18th century Paris which is a great period for voluminous crinolines and I based them on the gauzy effect of the Greta Garbo film Camille (same story). She falls in love with Alfredo but is persuaded by his father to abandon him for the sake of the family's name. The lovers reunite as Violetta is dying of consumption. Not a dry eye in the house! 
Manon Lescaut by Puccini was performed by the State Theatre Opera in the 80's.
Though set in the 18th century nearly all the scenes are in the countryside or the cast in dire circumstances (apart from a set of noblemen). A country girl, Manon, is led by her scoundrel brother, Lescaut, into the debauched life of Paris; but she is deported to America with other prostitutes and dies in the arms of her true love. A tearjerker!