Ariane et Corisande, 1948
Choreography: Jasmine Honoré
Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Design: John Dronsfield
This 1948 production of Mozart’s Ariane et Corisande was designed by the artist John Marsden Dronsfield (1900–1951). Dulcie Howes’ innovative work with local musicians and artists, such as Professor William Bell, Steven de Villiers and Dronsfield set the trend for many of today's successful collaborations between choreographers, composers and designers.
Dronsfield worked as stage designer and advertising artist in London before settling in Cape Town in 1939. He worked with Gwen Ffrancogn-Davies and Marda Vanne in theatrical productions, which were a major contribution to the development of theatre in South Africa. Joe Wolpe described him as ‘an individual who felt the problems of humanity, who lived and breathed poetry, music, arts of every kind, many of which he himself created’. He committed suicide in 1951, only three years after this production was staged. Following his death, fellow artist Cecil Higgs entered into her diary: ‘It was a great relief to talk to J [John] of my painting blockages. He is the only person with whom I can talk of them. We stand on the same ground. We look out from in, they look in, from across.’ Two portfolios of reproductions of his graphic studies, entitled African Improvisations, were published posthumously.
‘The range of period costumes here particularly compelling – from post-war, to 18th- century to pantheistic futurism. Performance theorists, cultural studies scholars, historians, ethonographers, designers, musicians – for me any number of researchers could be investigating an image like one as part of a topic that relates to aspects of their work and the world.’ – Gerard Samuel