Despite having an extensive professional career with over 150 scenic designs for opera, theatre, dance or musicals, Paco Azorín (Yecla, 1974) still defines himself as “a boy”. A boy who got interested in the performing arts thanks to the freedom offered to him by a small box of biscuits where as a child he could allow his imagination to take flight and play at being the creator he would become as an adult: “It was a window on another dimension, a dimension much more interesting than life itself.” The most scenographic of directors and the most director-like of scenographers, as he defines himself, trained at the Institut del Teatre. Since then he has become a creator with one of the most extensive and varied careers in the performing arts today. His activity, however, particularly focuses on the field of opera and zarzuela, influenced by the passion of one of his uncles, a great music lover, for these genres.
This infinite curiosity has taken him to erase the borders between his work as a scenographer and as a stage director, adopting the two roles together in many of his productions. He explains that the scenographer works with stable, solid materials while the director works with human material, far more volatile and equally interesting. As a scenographer he is especially involved in the dramaturgy of the space, in its narrative capacity, while, as a stage director, he confesses that he always starts his work with a spatial metaphor. Two different approaches to performance that, in Paco’s case, seem to fit together naturally.
Whatever the professional position he adopts in any process of creation, Paco is sure that if anything makes this process exciting, it is the dialogue established between all the agents involved. For him, the director is never a totemic figure: “The director-dictator forms part of the 20th century.” He feels comfortable being in the shoes of the director as the person charged with orchestrating the talents of the whole team.
Although he carries out much of his artistic work in the world of opera ‒ a genre that, very often, still seems rooted in the codes and dogmas of past centuries ‒ he is convinced of the need to demystify the performance space. He convincingly argues that “you cannot do 21st century opera in an 18th or 19th century building.” He tells us that, from his point of view, opera has forgotten everything interesting provided by 20th century avant-gardes and that is destined to perform a triple somersault from the codes of the 19th century to those of the 21st. Faithful to his idea of the need to define the stage and its relationship with the audience, he argues that opera must cease to be an elitist genre if it does not want to disappear. All these thoughts, characteristic of the professional who regards any creative process with innocence and curiosity, are evident in many of his projects. His productions always include technological elements and contemporary references to bring classic themes and characters to the audience and to establish a prolific dialogue between what we call “classics” and the contemporary perspective. Good examples of this dialogue could be his versions of Tosca (Gran Teatre del Liceu, 2014) and Fuenteovejuna (Ópera de Oviedo, 2018).
Talking to Paco, it is easy to see that, for him, life and the stage are absolutely connected. He tells us that recently he has been looking inwards in search of the questions and conflicts that will become the creative engine that will shape his projects. For him, the stage is the best place to learn new things rather than the place to recognise everything already known. Once again the curious outlook of the boy who still has everything to discover becomes apparent. This idea of freedom comes up repeatedly in our talk: we live in a world where we only find second hand ideas, so the artist has to be militant about his freedom of thought. Only by exercising this freedom (the mother of all other freedoms ‒ of expression, demonstration, etc. ‒, he says), will every artist be able to achieve, if only for an instant, the plenitude of his or her creative identity. “Without ritual or spirituality there is no action or performing art.”
You can consult Paco Azorín’s projects on his website: