USW student designs set for production of Madam Butterfly

Illustration student Katie Alcock, 21, from Pontyclun, won the WNO’s first Design Challenge to create the staging concept for the opera, which opened at the Wales Millennium Centre on Friday (10 February).

Katie Alcock with her concept


A University of South Wales student has designed the set for the Welsh National Opera’s touring production of Madam Butterfly.

Illustration degree student Katie Alcock, 21, from Pontyclun, won the WNO’s first Design Challenge to create the staging concept for the opera, which opened at the Wales Millennium Centre last Friday.

The Design Challenge was launched last autumn to uncover new talent in stage design. WNO Technical Director, Jan Michaelis launched the Challenge with the Youth and Community team to connect with future national design talent.

Working with the National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural further and high education network, the partnership targeted non-theatre design students, opening up new possibilities with those studying Illustration, Fine Art and Production Arts.

Fellow USW Illustration student Rory Hopkins was shortlisted for the prize, alongside Gateshead College student Corben Jones.

The Challenge asked students to come up with a touring set for the production of Madam Butterfly. From entries across the UK, the three finalists were given the opportunity to realise their designs into a professional model box provided by WNO.

Katie, Rory and Corben were then invited to Wales Millennium Centre last week to pitch their designs live to a panel including Jan Michaelis, David Pountney (Artistic Director), Robert Pagett (Head of Production) and Ed Wilson (General Manager of Cardiff Theatrical Services), demonstrating a coherent artistic concept taken from one of the director’s visions written by the Company.

Katie’s winning design is now on display at the Wales Millennium Centre, where it will stay for the duration of Madam Butterfly’s run.

Matt Morgan, Lecturer in Illustration at the University of South Wales, said: “Working with Creative & Cultural Skills and the WNO has been a great experience and a fantastic opportunity for our students.

“The lecturing team are extremely proud of all the students who took part in the competition, and we are absolutely thrilled that Katie has been announced as the winner. She is a great student and has done so well on this brief. Her work and ideas are fantastic, and show a fresh and interesting approach to the staging of Madam Butterfly.”

Pauline Tambling, CEO of Creative & Cultural Skills, added: “Live briefs put young talent in front of their future employers. The WNO Design Challenge has allowed students to authentically collaborate and start building a network with one of the country’s leading live event producers. As our research has shown, as self-employment, globalisation, and the collaborative economy grows, we strive to build projects to reflect training for our sector’s training needs.”

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