Barry Kay – Biography – 1966-1975

Annotations

A letter by Barry Kay, dated 5 November 1978, to John Tooley, then general administrator of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden:

Dear John –

I am very pleased with the reception of Solitaire in its new designs as I am with the realisation of the set. However, I should like it to be noted for the record that we were extremely lucky to have had the costumes at all complete for the first night.

I really cannot remember worse organisation in this area. The costume designs were delivered early as was the set, but the actual work on the costumes was delayed until the last minute. As a result we were without fittings for most of the principals and we could only have a first impression of them at the general [rehearsal]. This kind of panic is totally unnecessary and creates an untenable atmosphere in which to work, both for the designer and costumiers.

Without going into detail at this point, I would like to stress that the one and only cause for this situation was extremely poor delegation. This resulted in overloaded work for a few and almost none for many others.

On any future occasion that I may be invited to design for Covent Garden or Sadler’s Wells, I would like some assurance before commencing, that such a situation would not arise again.

I regret having to write in this way, as much effort was put into it by the staff and the results were good, but I feel it essential for you to know the facts not just for my sake but also for that of my colleagues.

With best regards always,
Sincerely,

Barry

1966

January 18 [?]
Première of The Birdwatcher; play; assignment costumes; direction Richard Cottrell; The Hampstead Theatre Club; Hampstead Theatre, London. – Although the data remain unverified, Barry Kay’s costumes are believed to have been intended for this production.

May 7
World première of Raymonda, Act III1, given while on tour; ballet; assignment scenery and costumes; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Royal Ballet, Touring Company; National Opera House, Helsinki, Finland.

May 18
Première of Tancredi; ballet; assignment scenery and costumes; choreography Rudolf Nureyev; Wiener Staatsopernballett (since 2010 Wiener Staatsballett; State Opera House, Vienna.

May – June
Barry Kay’s inspired solution for Tancredi results in Rudolf Nureyev assigning him to create the sets and costumes for yet a third ballet in very short succession – Don Quixote, also to be performed by the Wiener Staatsopernballett at the State Opera House, Vienna. The première date is set for early December this year.

Spring – Summer – Autumn
Dividing his time between Vienna and London, Kay commences designing the sets and costumes for The Sleeping Beauty / Dornröschen, a Kenneth MacMillan production for the Ballett der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Bismarckstraße, Berlin-Charlottenburg2; to be premièred in the spring of the following year.

July 16
Première of Raymonda, Act III; ballet; assignment scenery and costumes; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Royal Ballet, Touring Company; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.

Autumn
As the Deutsche Oper Berlin needs to procure additional finances to enable the staging of The Sleeping Beauty, and requires more time to build three-dimensionally constructed sets on a large-scale, never before done for a ballet at the opera house, the production’s scheduled première date in the spring of next year is postponed until the funds become available3.

Autumn – Spring 1967
In the interim, while deviding his time between Berlin and Vienna to oversee the making of Don Quixote at the Wiener Staatsoper, Barry Kay designs the set and costumes for Anastasia – later to become known as the one-act version – which Kenneth MacMillan’s is choreographing for the Deutsche Oper Berlin to fill the time void.4

December 1
Première of Don Quixote; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); Wiener Staatsopernballett; State Opera House, Vienna.


1967

June 25
World première of Anastasia, later to become known as the original one-act version; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; period newsreel projections; choreography Kenneth MacMillan; Ballett der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Deutsche Oper Berlin.

October 8
Première of The Sleeping Beauty / Dornröschen; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; choreography Kenneth MacMillan (after Marius Petipa); Ballett der Deutschen Oper Berln; Deutsche Oper Berlin.

October 9 – 18
“Barry Kay – Bühnenbilder und Figurinen”, an exhibition of set and costume designs for The Sleeping Beauty accompanied by a small range of costume drawings for the Vienna production of Don Quixote; Galerie Hammer & Theater, Europa-Center, Berlin. To mark the occasion and publicize the event, Kay’s friend and the Barry Kay Archive’s founder to be, Michael Werner, designs a poster.


1968

January 3 – 27
“Barry Kay and Ronald Searle” joint exhibition; Kay shows scenery and costume designs of the Berlin stagings of The Sleeping Beauty and Anastasia, as well as of the Vienna staging of Don Quixote; Grosvenor Gallery, Mayfair, London.

Spring – Summer – Autumn
Throughout this time Kay is concurrently designing the set and costumes for Kenneth MacMillan’s new ballet Cain and Abel / Kain und Abel, to be performed by the Ballett der Deutschen Oper, Berlin – and entirely new scenery and costumes for an existing production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for The Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

November 1
World première of Cain and Abel / Kain und Abel; ballet; assignment scenery and costumes; choreography Kenneth MacMillan; Ballett der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Deutsche Oper Berlin.

December
At a dinner and soirée at his London residence, Rudolf Nureyev is asking Kay to design a new production of Don Quixote, which he is planning to stage with The Australian Ballet at the Adelaide Festival in the spring of 1970.


1969

January 24
First night of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; opera; apparently a restaging of a previous production; assignment entirely new designs of scenery, costumes and properties; production and direction Rudolf Hartmann; conductor Georg (György) Solti; The Royal Opera; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. The set model and a number of costume drawings are acquired by the Royal Opera House Archives, renamed since to Royal Opera House Collections.

March 27
Première of Raymonda Act III; ballet; assignment scenery and costumes; choreography Rdolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Royal Ballet, Principal Company; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.

Spring – Summer
Preparatory work start on scenery and costume designs for Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote for the Australian Ballet at the Adelaide Festival. Concurrently, Kay begins designing sets and costumes for Kenneth MacMillan’s Miss Julie / Fräulein Julie, to be premièred by the Stuttgart Ballet in the spring of next year.

Autumn
Kay flies to Melbourne, delivering his models and set and costume drawings for Don Quixote at the Australian Ballet, conveying and discussing his intentions with workshops and dress-making departments.

November – December
Upon his return to London Kay sets out to finalize his designs for Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet Miss Julie / Fräulein Julie and, following their delivery, is paying intermittent visits to the Stuttgart workshops.

Sometime this year – date [?]
Some of Kay’s designs are presented at a public exhibition entitled “Stage Design”, which is held in Melbourne; venue [?]. In the foreword of the accompanying illustrated catalogue the London ballet critic, Nigel Gosling, discusses Kay’s Approach to Stage Design.


1970

January – March
With the two première dates of Miss Julie / Fräulein Julie, Stuttgart, and Don Quixote, Adelaide, coming up in March, Kay is required to commute back and forth between Germany and Australia.

March 3 – throughout the year
Kay starts designing sets and costumes for Kenneth MacMillan’s three-act version of Anastasia for The Royal Ballet; the work is occupying him for the rest of the year, extending into the following one.

March 8
World Première of Miss Julie / Fräulein Julie; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Kenneth MacMillan; The Stuttgart Ballet; Württembergische Staatstheater, Staatstheater Stuttgart.

March 28 – April 4
Première and first season of Don Quixote; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Australian Ballet; Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre; Adelaide Festival, South Australia.5

April 7
First night of Don Quixote; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Australian Ballet; Palais Theatre, St Kilda, Melbourne. First staging of production in Melbourne immediately following Adelaide Festival season; duration of first Melbourne season not established.

April 8 – Duration [?]
Exhibition of scenery and costume designs for Don Quixote to coincide with the ballet’s Melbourne staging; the show comprises some fifty works, including a selection of drawings from Kay’s work of the past five years; opening by Robert Helpman; venue South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne.

April 21 – Duration [?]
On the eve of the presentation of Don Quixote in Sydney, Kay attends the opening of an exhibition of his set and costume designs for this ballet and other productions; venue Clune Gallery, Sydney.

May 22 – June 6 [?]
First night of Don Quixote; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Australian Ballet; Sydney Opera House. Sixteen performances are given in Sydney.

June 11 – 24
First night of Don Quixote; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Australian Ballet; venue [?], Brisbane, Queensland. The Brisbane season encompasses sixteen performances, including twice-weekly matinées.

September 4 – 12
First night of Don Quixote; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Australian Ballet; venue [?], Perth, Western Australia. Ten performances are given in Perth.

1970 et seq.
Sometime during the early 1970s, Barry Kay is approached by a production consortium asking him to design the costumes and scenery for the musical Canterbury Tales, scheduled to eventually open at a London theatre. Despite various discussions being under way between Kay and the producer, together with other members of the consortium, the plan never comes to fruition for reasons hitherto unknown.


1971

January 1 – July 21
During his forthcoming travels, Kay continues working in between on set and costumes designs, and supervising their making, for Kenneth MacMillan’s three-act version of Anastasia with The Royal Ballet.

January 17
Kay flies to the USA to attend the staging of Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote with The Australian Ballet.

January 18 – 19
First night of Don Quixote; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Australian Ballet on tour; [venue?], St. Louis, Illinois.

January 20 – Duration [?]
Opening night of Don Quixote; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Australian Ballet on tour; New York City Center, West 56th Street, New York City.

January 20 – February 6
Joint exhibition coinciding with above, Kay is showing set and costume designs for Don Quixote and The Sleeping Beauty; co-exhibitor William Pitkin; Wright Hepburn Webster Gallery, New York City.

July 22
World première of Anastasia, three-act version; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; period newsreel projections; choreography Kenneth MacMillan; The Royal Ballet; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.

July 23 – November 3
Immediately following the première of Anastasia Kay commences working on new sets and costumes for Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote at the Ballet National de Marseille; to supervise the various workshops Kay frequently travels between London and Marseille.

October 9 – November 18
Exhibition of set and costume designs for Anastasia; The Royal Opera House; Covent Garden, London.

November 4
Gala première of Don Quixote; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); Ballet National de Marseille; l’Opéra Municipal de Marseille.


Barry Kay, London 1968

Fes, Morocco 1973 – positioned behind his friend of long standing, the Australian impresario Clifford Hocking photo © Michael Werner

Vienna 1977
photo Annette Lederer

Athens 1980
photo © Michael Werner


1972

April 27 – May 8
Kay flies to New York City, preparing the staging of The Royal Ballet’s forthcoming performance of Anastasia, three-act version, at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center. Following the première, he stays on for a few days before returning to London.

May 5
US première of Anastasia; three-act version; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; period newsreel projections; choreography Kenneth MacMillan; The Royal Ballet on tour; Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York.

May 9 – 15
On his return to London Kay flies via Spain, visiting Seville and Ronda, to take photographs and make sketches of local people and their habitats for reference purposes in designing the scenery, costumes and props for the movie version of Don Quixote.

July 19
First night of Anastasia, three-act version; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; period newsreel projections; choreography Kenneth MacMillan; The Royal Ballet on tour; Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York.

August 25 – October 8
Barry Kay’s costume and set drawings for Don Quixote are on show in an exhibition entitled “Ten Years of the Australian Ballet – Costume and Design”; included are drawings for the existing stage production, premièred at the 1970 Adelaide Festival, as well as the imminent film version currently in preparation and due for release in 1973; venue National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

September 21 – 23
En route to Melbourne Kay attends a meeting in New York, for further discussions with the producer and United Artists Inc concerning technical details, extras casting and the shooting schedule of the movie version of Don Quixote.

September 24 – December 8
In Melbourne he is setting up workshops in preparation of the shooting for Rudolf Nureyev’s and Robert Helpman’s movie of Don Quixote. The actual shooting is accomplished within a mere three weeks, terminating on December 86. Concurrently, Kay is setting up an exhibition of stage and costume designs due to open shortly in South Yarra.

November – Duration [?]
Whilst in Australia, a prearranged exhibition of set and costume designs for various recent productions is taking place at the Desmos Gallery, Athens.

December 9 – 31
Following the shooting of the Don Quixote movie Kay remains in Melbourne to reassemble the set model; upon completion he donates it to the Australian Ballet Society, where it finds its permanent home.

December 10 – 22
Exhibition of set and costume designs for the movie version of Don Quixote and for the three-act version of Anastasia; South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne7.


1973

January 1 – 12
Before returning to London, Kay is paying Tokyo and Kyoto an informative visit, gathering impressions of Japanese culture and life. The annually recurring three-day Sake Festival at the beginning of January provides ample opportunities for dress and character studies.

July 12 – August 4
Exhibition of set designs for various productions; participating in four-man show entitled “Bozzetti scenografici della Royal Opera House di Londra” (“Stage designs for the Royal Opera House, London”); Studio la Città Galleria d’Arte, Verona.

July 19
Gala world première of Don Quixote, movie version; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; choreography Nureyev (after Marius Petipa), co-direction Nureyev and Helpman; production John L. Hargreaves for United Artists Inc; The Australian Ballet, Sydney Opera House. – Read the review about this movie production by Anna Kisselgoff in The New York Times.

September 1
A birthday gift of a 35mm camera unexpectedly triggers Kay’s vocation for photography. Shortly afterwards he travels to Amsterdam and Crete to explore his visual skills photographically. He soon discovers photography as the perfect medium complementing his work for the theatre, and vice versa.

October 2 – October 6
First night of Don Quixote; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Rudolf Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Australian Ballet on tour; coinciding with an exhibition of set and costume designs for the same ballet, both at the Coliseum Theatre, London.

October 21 – Duration [?]
Exhibition of set and costume designs for the movie version of Don Quixote; sponsor British Council Australia; venue Sydney Opera House.

October 31
Preview of scenery and costumes designed by Barry Kay, an exhibition and reception held on the occasion of commemorating the opening of the Sydney Opera House earlier this year; host New South Wales Government; venue New South Wales House, London. The exhibition opens officially tomorrow.

At this reception, Kay meets a representative of the State Library of New South Wales – the Mitchell Library’s Liaison Librarian. In response to the latter’s interest, Kay indicates his willingness to sell a number of his designs and working drawings [ibid] for ballet productions.

November 1 – Duration [?]
Exhibition of set and costume designs for the movie version of Don Quixote, as well as two set models and actual stage costumes for Anastasia, three-act version, on loan from The Royal Ballet; sponsor New South Wales Government; venue New South Wales House, London.


1974

January 26 – February 22
Exhibition of set and costume designs for various productions; Bards Gallery, Kensington, London.

January 28
Royal gala première in the presence of Princess Margaret, president of The Royal Ballet, European release of the movie version of Don Quixote; ballet; details as above (1973, July 19); The Bloomsbury Cinema, London.

February 27 – March 3
Kay consults Galerie Proscenium in Paris to negotiate an exhibition of his designs.

May 8 – November 10
Kay photographically records the last months and the closure of the historic Covent Garden Market, adjacent to the Royal Opera House. A feature is published in the ‘Observer Magazine’, London, and in the German magazine ‘Schöner Wohnen’, publisher Gruner+Jahr, Hamburg.

October 2 – November 15
Participating in an exhibition of “Theatre Design”, showing costume and set designs for various productions; Annelie Juda Fine Arts, London.

December 20 – 31
In Melbourne Kay sets out photographing Australia’s unique Ocker characters, his first endeavour of creating a socio-anthropological documentary; to be continued the following year and in the course of future visits to Australia8.


1975

January 1 – February 27
In pursuit of the Ocker archetype among Australia’s rural population Kay leaves Melbourne by car on January 9. Passing through Sale, Orbost, Bega, Canberra and Nowra, his final destination is Sydney. Here, in King’s Cross, he embarks upon another, long-harboured photographic project – he establishes first ties with members of Sydney’s prolific, lively and diversified community of transvestites and transsexuals. His objective is the publication of a socio-anthropological documentary on the subject [henceforth: T&T]; at this stage a title is not as yet decided9.

April
As a result of the London meeting between Kay and the Mitchell Library’s Liaison Librarian on October 31, 1973 [ibid], the State Library of New South Wales, in liaison with the New South Wales Government Offices in London, acquires from Kay a selection of 14 silver gelatin photographs of his stage and costume designs, including set models, created between 1966 and 1972. The selection comprises images of Tancredi (Vienna, 1966), Don Quixote (Adelaide, 1970), Don Quixote (Marseille, 1972), Anastasia (one-act version, Berlin, 1967), and Anastasia (three-act version, London, 1971). – Negotiations for the purchase of some of Kay’s working drawings are in progress. [ibid]

Spring
Kay prepares a presentation of his photographs of T&T. In search of a UK publisher he gets Matthew Miller Dunbar in London interested, who are very eager in the realization of the project.

July 11 – September 17
Backed by the publishers’ assurance to proceed with the project, Kay returns to Australia and continues photographing T&T. Concurrently, he lectures on theatre-related subjects in Sydney and Melbourne10.

August 17
Whilst still in Australia, a photographic feature of T&T is published in the London ‘Observer’; issue: August 24, 1975.

Summer – Autumn – Winter
Back in London, Kay starts evaluating and collating thousands of negatives and is producing the first finished prints for the platemaking of the projected publication of T&T; much of this time is also spent collaborating with the publishers who, meanwhile, have secured an American and German edition in addition to the combined one for the UK and Australia.

September – December
Kay takes up lecturing at the Croydon College of Design and Technology on a regular basis; subjects covered are design for the theatre, constructivism and photography.

November 24 – December 1
In Hamburg, Germany, Kay approaches F.C. Gundlach, an accredited photographer himself and founder and proprietor of Germany’s first gallery for photography. Kay proposes and discusses the prospects of an exhibition of images from his forthcoming publication of T&T.

December 11 – 31
To finalize photographing T&T Kay returns to Australia once again, first staying in Melbourne, then moving on to Sydney, extending his visit into the following year. For the time being, the Ocker project is on hold, awaiting another of Kay’s visits to Sydney later on.