Renowned Bay Area graphic artist Michael Schwab has created award winning images,
posters and logos for numerous clients, including Robert Mondavi, Turner Classic
Movies, Amtrak, Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid, Robert Redford’s Sundance, the 2002 Winter Olympics, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. In 1992, he collaborated with San Francisco Opera on the Company’s poster for Boris Godunov. We asked him a few questions about his commission for this year’s Ring cycle.
[Left: Michael Schwab photographs Adler Fello Maya Lahyani dressed as Brünnhilde]
Q: What was your process for creating the image?
In the beginning, I was provided with video footage of the production—the sets, costumes, etc. Then I met with the San Francisco Opera team to discuss Brünnhilde as the main subject—the heroine for the poster and program cover. I later photographed Adler Fellow Maya Lahyani at the Company’s costume shop as Brünnhilde. She was in costume with her sword, spear (and goggles!) for the poster silhouette. That was fun. The next day, in my studio, I began working on pencil sketches, then soon to pen and ink. The original art was scanned, digitized and made ready for the printer.
Q: What were your inspirations for the image?
My graphic heroes have always been the early 20th century poster artists from France, Italy, and Germany. My goal was to combine the big, bold drama of those historic posters with a modern, cutting edge attitude for this production. I’ve always enjoyed creating dramatic poster images that somehow tell a story. For me, the paper is my stage, with shapes, colors, and typography working together to create a scene or evoke a mood—a message. If I wasn’t working as a graphic artist, I would probably be working in theater.
Q: What is the message or story in your Ring artwork?
The growing vine at the foot of the spear foreshadows new life eventually emerging from the ever-flowing Rhine under the horrific, burning Valhalla above.
To purchase your copy of Michael Schwab’s Ring artwork, visit http://www.sfopera.com/ringmerch
or visit the Opera Shop before performances or during intermission.