L’étoile Magazine

Todd O'Dowd

 “one of the most sumptuous and startling productions I have ever seen Minnesota Opera attempt. From its first images of the shifting projected mountains to simulate the drive to the Overlook Hotel, this is one of the most ambitious physical productions in the company’s history and the risks they take pay off big time; creating some gorgeous stage pictures and some genuinely terrifying moments"


Wall Street Journal


“Minnesota spent some real money on the production: Erhard Rom’s detailed set cleverly created not only the Overlook’s grandeur and emptiness, but intimacy with smaller rooms that slid on and offstage.”


TWIN CITIES pioneer press


 “I can’t recall an opera in which the villain is a building. But that’s the case with The Shining”

“And what a building it is. Thanks to the inspired intersection of Erhard Rom’s stately set and the swirling, spooky projections of 59 Productions…..  The Shining is an unqualified success”


Classical Music

by Jay Gabler

“If there's ever a show where the setting is its own character, it's this one, and the infamous Overlook is realized as a striking (so to speak) set by Erhard Rom, elements sliding aside as the characters penetrate more deeply into the hotel's dark heart. The eerie Room 217 literally glows with menace; lighting designer Robert Wierzel uses heavenly glows to fiendish effect.”

Musical America - Thomas May     “Production values were excellent across the board. Erhard Rom’s dazzling, readily reconfigurable sets capture the Overlook’s sprawling elegance and, at the same time, its claustrophobia.”

 Talkin’ Broadway - Arthur Dorman       “the physical production is ingenious”

Star Tribune- MICHAEL ANTHONY       “eye-filling multimedia production”  “The production Simonson and his team put together can only be called brilliant"



Peter Alexander

"The Shining received a stunning production that realized the full potential of the score.”

“Minnesota Opera’s production is a dazzling tour de force. The beautiful projections that place the actors on a mountain road and beside a peaceful lake are impressive enough, but even more impressive are the scenes in the hotel, with a combination of atmospheric projections that heighten the mood and sliding units that shift (almost) seamlessly from room to room.”

OPERA NEWS Joshua Rosenblum 

Director Eric Simonson’s imaginative, kaleidoscopic production gives a sense of the Overlook’s threatening vastness. Through the effective integration of animated projections (by 59 Productions), sliding sets (by Erhard Rom), and cleverly deployed scrim effects, the hotel itself becomes the prime malevolent force in the proceedings. Costume designer Kärin Kopischke populates the stage with a rogue’s gallery of creepy revelers in the ballroom scenes, and Robert Wierzel’s haunted-house lighting is spot-on……..watching Vega’s Danny step slowly toward the bathtub with the drawn curtain in the forbidden room 217 was as riveting as anything I’ve ever seen in a theater. What a wonderful thing to be able to say about a new American opera. “


MN Playlist 


“Of course, one of the most important roles in The Shining is entirely non-verbal, that of the Overlook Hotel itself. Erhard Rom’s production team has created a memorable, elegantly appointed set that captures the spirit of a grand estate sliding into obsolescence. A clever arrangement of self-contained, movable rooms allows the action to shift effortlessly from lobby to bedroom to pantry as sets are wheeled on and off stage…….. this is a worthy production propelled by majestic design, full-bodied performances and impressive ambition”

My Cultural Landscape

By George Heymont    SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2015

With impressive scenery and projections designed by Erhard Rom, costumes by Mattie Ullrich, and lighting by Gary Marder, the production's rich visuals were strengthened by the use of forced perspective and, in the wedding scene, a cluster of giddily sculpted floral hats for the female chorus.”

“While some traditionalists in the audience were horrified by the look of San Francisco Opera's new production, I was absolutely thrilled by it. The design concept created the kind of dramatic tension which has long evaporated from most stagings of Donizetti's opera.”

This handsome new production was a triumph for David Gockley's administration in its final year of leadership.”

Soprano Nadine Sierra’s, Director Michael Cavanagh’s Vivid “Lucia di Lammermoor” – San Francisco Opera, October 8, 2015

“I regard the Cavanagh-Rom production of “Lucia di Lammermoor”, which incorporates forward-looking technologies to enhance the operatic experience, as one of most effective new productions in the extraordinary ten-year stewardship of San Francisco Opera’s General Director David Gockley.”

 “The San Francisco Opera mounted an illuminating new production of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor”, staged by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh, with notably effective sets and projections by Washington scenic designer Erhard Rom…..However Cavanagh and Rom came to the visual presentation of the opera, it certainly is the most striking and absorbing production of “Lucia” in San Francisco Opera history”

“The “Lucia” production suggests that the mix of highly dramatic staging and imposing sets with spectacular projections provides a means of mounting the Italian bel canto operas of the 1830s and 1840s, many of which are undeservedly underperformed.”

Opera Warhorses - October 10, 2015

 “Most productions of Donizetti’s bel canto classic arrive with few conceptual notions attached. Michael Cavanagh’s staging for the San Francisco Opera overflows with them, and they suggest myriad interpretations. The romantic era of Walter Scott has yielded to a modern landscape, in which Lucia is a pawn in her brother’s corrupt land swindle, unfolding in an elegant mausoleum and a posh executive office. …..ghosts saunter through Erhard Rom’s marble-surfaced décor”

“Best of it all is the Wolf Crag, staged on a chessboard in a foggy void, with the two participants circling each other like gladiators. It is opera as blood sport and in this setting simply wonderful”

Allan Ulrich - Financial Times October 12, 2015 5:59 pm

 “Director Michael Cavanagh staged the Sir Walter Scott story on which the opera is based in a modern-mythic Scotland, employing the sepulchral coldness of a banked marble-colored set. Erhard Rom’s video projections of mist-shrouded highlands and roiling coastal waters reinforced the gray mood.”

James Ambroff-Tahan - The San Francisco Examiner October 9, 2015

“This is a new production, and Erhard Rom's striking sets and Michael Cavanagh's uncluttered direction serves the opera well. The great hall of Lammermoor Castle, where Enrico strives for success, smacks of a corporate boardroom, and the slaying of Arturo in the nuptial bedroom was persuasively staged to show Lucia's final unraveling. The cold marble garden where the opera plays out underscores Edgardo's loss and demise”.


“SF Opera’s new production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” captures our imaginations immediately with Scenic and Projection Designer Erhard Rom’s amazing, cinematic evocation of rural Scotland as the fog pours over the stage amidst convincing clouds that seem to hug the ground. The opening sequence offers moments of amazing visual enchantment.”

By Charles Kruger- TheatreStorm

THEATER REVIEW: ‘Wreckers,’ rare opera penned by woman,

opens at Bard

July 27, 2015 by MARION HUNTER

“The Wreckers” / Opera by Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) / Bard SummerScape

“Visually the production is stunning (design by Erhard Rom). The opening set features the mast of a destroyed ship, which leans into the blue-gray space like a wounded crucifix. Giant human shadows on the back wall hover over scenes. Rectangular, slatted cargo boxes are piled into the sky, offering limitless levels for the cast to use. The boxes, with their vertical slats, create a flexible pallet of lines (sometimes internally lit). The boxes, along with long boards, bring to mind a Braque painting. They morph into a mountaintop, a storm cloud, a cave with boxy stalactites and stalagmites, and finally into a giant wave that descends over the ill-fated lovers. The lovers are each bound to—what else? A cargo box. Exquisite, emotional lighting bathes every scene and clarifies who, among the crowd, is singing.”



Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers thrillingly staged in

New York

**** By Robert Levine, 27 July 2015

“Erhard Rom’s sets for Bard’s production, abetted by Hannah Wasileski’s projections and JAX Messenger’s lighting, evoke the coastline well; crates, planks of wood and sheets standing for sails litter the stage, a broken mast is seen in Act I and the projections give us the feel of the dreadful weather and harsh coast. We see the villagers plundering and murdering their latest victims during the overture – a good directorial touch by Thaddeus Strassberger – who also manages to convey the town’s desperation well. With its piles of crates, the set is an obstacle course, but it helps Strassberger keep the choral formations interesting. The acting of the soloists is natural..“


Time Out New York 

New York

By David Cote

Weekend getaway: SummerScape presents opera

rarity The Wreckers

“Erhard Rom’s unit set is built of dozens of crates littering the stage and stacked up high, forming towering grim cliffs, seashores, or suggesting church and town square. Actors step carefully from crate to crate in the downstage area, as if navigating steppingstones by the sea. The lighting by JAX Messenger was appropriately grisly red at times, shadowy at others. Hannah Wasileski’s video projection added textures of rippling water and flame as needed…. Strassberger’s staging is gently abstract but grounded in a persuasive psychological reading and maintains the period.”



Heidi Waleson

July 27, 2015 6:30 p.m. ET

Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

The Wreckers  Bard SummerScape

 “Erhard Rom’s set, a beach packed with towering piles of crates, presumably representing many years’ worth of spoils, made movement precarious, but Mr. Strassberger’s direction kept the energy high and the villagers in a permanent state of fury and exaltation. Even the muscular Act I prelude was staged as an orgy of pillage and murder, and the act’s choral finale—an enthusiastic expectation of more of the same—had the look of Broadway’s “Les Mis.” Kaye Voyce’s period costumes were properly bedraggled, and the lighting by JAX Messenger was alternately creepy and drenched in red.”


THEATER REVIEW | Minnesota Opera's "Carmen" heats up the Ordway

By Basil Considine, TC Daily Planet

May 04, 2015

The opera Carmen needs little introduction, but much can be said about how Minnesota Opera’s current production does things well. This classic femme fatale story is presented in Spain in the 1970s, when the Sexual Revolution first began to erode the edges of a conservative Catholicism previously enforced – sometimes brutally – by the repressive fascist regime of Generalissimo Franco. (The modern stereotype of sleazy Spanish men comes from just after this period.) This decision by director Michael Cavanagh heightens many tensions within the source material, and is a splendid excuse for a retrofabulous costume excursion. The music may be the same as normal, but the updated setting makes the characters much more relatable and heightens the already elevated emotional stakes.

 The orchestra at the reviewed performance was tightly led by Aaron Breid, who injected an extra bounce into several scenes to propel the dancing along. Jessica Jahn’s period costumes are eye-catching and attractive, while the stark Modernist surfaces of Erhard Rom’s setting offset well the onstage heat. The final stabbing scene, set against a backdrop of crowds at the back of a stadium with flower petals raining down, is an especially arresting image to end the evening



'Carmen' review: Minnesota Opera shifts story

  to '70s, and it soars

By Rob Hubbard
Special to the Pioneer Press

Who would think that the story of a promiscuous barfly and her stalker would become one of the world's most popular operas? But Georges Bizet's "Carmen" is certainly that, and Minnesota Opera's season-closing production underlines its attractiveness: Before it even opened Saturday night at St. Paul's Ordway Music Theater, it already had sold more tickets than any production in the company's half-century history.

There's a caveat with that: Minnesota Opera is offering about twice as many performances as customary. But its "Carmen" is a production with a lot of imagination and a very intriguing design (Erhard Rom sets,  Jessica Jahn costumes and Mark McCullough lighting).  And instead of being chiefly a showcase for its leads -- as "Carmen" has been known for many an opera star -- this is a very impressive ensemble piece, with minor characters fleshed out in fascinating fashion and outstanding singing coming from all corners of the cast.

But no matter which set of leads you get, the staging will give you plenty of fresh perspective on this oft-revived opera. Director Michael Cavanaugh maintains its original setting of Seville, Spain, but fast-forwards to 1975, right after the death of oppressive dictator Francisco Franco. There's chaos and corruption as military rule crumbles, and opening to the outside world involves garish wardrobes, disco dance moves and porn smuggling. Amid all this, Carmen seduces hapless soldiers and a superstar bullfighter before becoming the object of a most unhealthy obsession.

 Minnesota Opera's production deserves kudos for developing such an original approach to the work and throwing so much talent and energy into it.



Seattle Opera


Seattle Opera scored an extraordinary triumph with its brand-new Semele (seen Feb. 21 and 22), a timeless and beautiful modern-dress production that delivered “endless pleasure” indeed.  Stage director Tomer Zvulun, designers Erhard Rom (sets), Vita Tzykun (costumes) and Robert Wierzel (lighting) and choreographer Donald Byrd did outstanding work on Handel’s opera, based on the myth of the mortal woman Semele and her affair with Jupiter, king of the gods.

During the overture, large headshots of gods projected on a scrim and the small figures of mortals seen through it introduced the characters and cast. While sacrificial flames rose on earth, the elevated Semele aspired to rise higher, to Jupiter in the clouds. During the choral bursts “Avert these omens” and “Cease, cease your vows,” lightning streaked the sky, and six dancers in blue leotards, faces painted and hair dyed blue, streaked the stage. When her union with Jupiter had been achieved, Semele sang “Endless pleasure” in a sensuous maroon gown, seeming to emerge from the shadowed petals of a huge pink rose.   

As Act II began, a projection of Greece’s Mt. Olympus morphed into one of gold-crowned Juno. Iris, Juno’s mercurial spy, sported a Trojan helmet with headlamp and winged shoes with lights under the heels, and her fingers shot green lasers that oscillated when she trilled. Semele sang “O sleep, why dost thou leave me” in a bedroom with elegant white curtains and a view of Olympus with gleaming glacier. The moon rose over the mountain for Jupiter’s “Where’er you walk,” stars revolved for Ino’s “But hark, the heav’nly sphere turns round,” and earth rotated for the chorus “Bless the glad earth.”

Act III’s “Cave of Sleep” was here the “Somnus Night Club & Lounge,” the somnolent god trailing a great cape light-studded with constellations. Semele’s “My racking thoughts” was staged as a clear counterpart to “O sleep,” her “visionary joys” now become “painful nights.” As she warbled “Myself I shall adore,” pictures of herself popped up all over the set. She expired before a screen of flames around an image of Jupiter and was solemnly borne off by the dancers. Apollo, his image projected onscreen and his voice amplified, foretold the birth of Bacchus from her ashes. A frieze of Bacchus, grapes and leaves hung for the joyful final chorus.

Singing her first Semele, Brenda Rae was sensual in “O Sleep” and “With fond desiring,” dazzling in the coloratura of “Myself I shall adore” and long runs of “No, no, I’ll take no less,” and moving in her death scene. Time stopped when Rae and Stephanie Blythe sang the rapt beginning of the duet “Prepare then, ye immortal choir.” Imperious as Juno and affable as Semele’s sister Ino, Blythe had fun changing the color of her voice when Juno disguised herself as Ino, shifting from baleful to sweet for the last word of the aside “And sure destruction will ensue, vain wretched fool, adieu!” Blythe’s Juno had a special resonance due to her many Seattle performances of a similarly jealous goddess, Fricka.  

Looking like a long-haired rock star as Jupiter, Alek Shrader (who also doubled as Apollo) caught the potent rush of “I must with speed amuse her,” the liquid lyricism of “Where’er you walk” and the high tragedy of  “’Tis past, ’tis past recall, she must a victim fall.” John Del Carlo was an authoritative Cadmus and an amusing Somnus, his singing commanding if rough.  As Iris, Amanda Forsythe, possessor of a superb technique, was vocal and visual perfection.  The pleasant but modest countertenor of Randall Scotting, the Athamas, was overmatched by the voices of Blythe and Del Carlo.

Gary Thor Wedow, Seattle Opera’s go-to maestro for eighteenth-century music, conducted his most persuasive local performances yet. Nuanced dynamics enhanced “Endless pleasure,” and the chorus “Now Love that everlasting boy invites” throbbed with percussive verve. Period instruments — virginal (played by Wedow), harpsichord, portative organ, theorbo, guitar — augmented modern ones in an orchestra of thirty-seven musicians; the chorus was trimmed to twenty-eight.

In the second cast, lively Mary Feminear (Semele), rich-toned Deborah Nansteel (Juno/Ino) and finely focused Theo Lebow (Jupiter/Apollo) sang their roles effectively, if not at the level of Rae, Blythe and Shrader. 


Silent Night wins award

Silent Night wins Audience Choice Award and Best

Opera Production Award at

the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards


(Sunday, 22 February, 2015) Silent Night by American composer Kevin Puts, last year’s critically acclaimed opera set against the backdrop of WWI, proved to be both the people’s and the judges’ favorite at the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards, as the Wexford production was awarded two accolades, including Best Opera Production and the inaugural An Post Irish Stamps Audience Choice Prize, in a Gala Ceremony at the National Concert Hall, Dublin this evening.  A total of seventeen productions, predominately theatre, were nominated in this public category, with Silent Night being one of only two operas eligible for the award.  For the public to vote an opera their favorite production of last year, is an encouraging development for Irish opera in general and Wexford Opera in particular.

This  brings the total of ten wins for Wexford Festival since the awards were founded in 1997 and the first time audiences were given a say in what they thought was the ‘Best Irish theatre production’ of 2014. 

 Artistic Director of Wexford Festival Opera, David Agler accepted the award on behalf of conductor, Michael Christie and director, Tomer Zvulun.  Speaking to Ireland’s opera and theatre community, David said, “;I wish to thank the Irish Times for their dedicated support for the arts and, in particular, for opera.  Opera is merely theatre on an epic scale and Wexford is extremely grateful to have this recognized by opera’s inclusion in these prestigious awards.”;

 He added, “Silent Night was a very special opera, not only artistically, but because of its subject matter and its significance in our collective history.  It is clear from this award tonight that our audiences were truly moved by the production and I wish to thank all of those who came to Silent Night and who voted for it.  It proved challenging to realize such a large and complicated opera and this would simply have not been possible without the generous support from the Arts Council.”;

Silent Night Review-Wexford Opera

Director Tomer Zvulun and set designer Erhard Rom divide the Wexford stage vertically, so that we see the three regiments stacked above one another; this is an ingenious design which allows us to witness simultaneous actions and experiences. In particular, the gradual drawing down of a grey curtain as the ‘disgraced’ regiments are sent to different points on the front line was powerfully evocative of the deaths which surely await them. In the pit, conductor Michael Christie did much to highlight the lyricism of the score.

Opera Today

Silent Night - Wexford Opera

For Silent Night, designer Erhard Rom erected a massive three-tiered set with very few other pieces, allowing the soldiers and other actors to 'decorate' the spaces, grouped by nationality. This edifice was augmented with carefully selected drops and meaningful projections that were incorporated into the flawless lighting design by the ubiquitous DM Wood. Simplicity of presentation was the key, as was clarity of the multiple characters and their relationships to each other. To that end, Tomer Zvulun's assured direction used economy of movement, isolation of areas, and layered uses of scrims. In one brilliant directorial stroke, I was suitably startled by the house lights coming on suddenly to announce the commencement of wartime hostilities, interrupting the duet being performed onstage at the Berlin Opera, and setting the perfect tone for all that follows.


Opera Warhorses

Michael Cavanagh and Erhard Rom 

Gockley, one can safely surmise, was determined to create a production that not only would be a credit to the San Francisco Opera and to Carlisle Floyd and “Susannah”, but would also help transform such skeptics as might remain as to whether such an “American Opera” belongs in a world-class opera house.

A decision on par with his excellent casting choices, was his commission for the team – Canadian director Michael Cavanagh and Wasington state set designer Erhard Rom – that created the transformative production of Adams’ “Nixon in China” recently seen at the San Francisco Opera [see 25 Years Old, “Nixon in China” Arrives at San Francisco Opera – June 8, 2012] to create the “Susannah” production.

The beautiful projections that Cavanagh and Rom envisioned and Rom created were awe-inspiring. Cavanagh’s stage direction mixed an occasional scene before the curtain, with the actions on a unit that was built around a wooden floor.  That floor served for scenes of the square dance, for the front yard of the Polks’ home and for the church.

Then the production team brilliantly added flowing projections to evoke Susannah swimming nude in the “baptismal crick” and ethereal projections to express “the pretty night” of Susannah’s ballad.

The end result was not only the best production of “Susannah” ever mounted, but another milestone in the use of projections for producing opera.

Nixon in China...in Dublin

Erhard Rom's set designs are spectacular, and in the well-equipped Bord Gais Energy Theatre this complex production flowed superbly. Cavanagh's direction reflected the story with veracity while creating excellent stage pictures and coping well with the text's fanciful and at times silly lines.

Opera, September 2014