JWM MAGAZINE 88 JWMARRIOTT.COM
The innovative director has a surprising
passion: a certain famous pop star.
RobeRt Wilson has been an inteRnationally Reno Wned
director for nearly 50 years now. since his first big splash with an
avant-garde staging of Philip Glass’ opera, Einstein on the Beach, in
1976, Wilson has worked all over the world, offering visually strik-
ing stagings of everything from Wagner’s Ring Cycle to shakespeare’s
sonnets and tom Waits’ musicals.
at 73, the high-art icon is not done surprising: as
it turns out, he’s a lady Gaga fan.
the singer contacted him out of the blue and the
pair struck up an unlikely long-distance friendship,
with Gaga asking for Wilson’s advice on matters
theatrical. he ended up designing the set and light-
ing for her performance at the 2013 MtV Video
Music awards. the director recalls that “after-
wards, giggling, she said [switching to a girly voice]
‘how did i do?’ i said, ‘you learn fast: you start
strong and you end big.’ she’s real smart.”
a few months later, Gaga starred in video portraits
Wilson made for an exhibit at the louvre Museum —
three inspired by classical paintings by ingres, solario
and david, and one based on an original concept.
she didn’t let her new mentor down.
“this is a side of her the public doesn’t know
so well,” Wilson says. “First day, she walked into
the studio at 9 o’clock and greeted everyone: ‘Good morning, my name is
lady Gaga, and what is your name?’ she won over the whole crew.”
then the pop star proceeded to stun the director with her work ethic.
“the first portrait, she stood just under 11 hours,” he says. “We were
afraid she would faint but she found this place of mind where she could
keep the situation totally alive. her face and whole body were very still.
she had incredible power of concentration and depth of emotion.”
as work continued, Gaga never flagged. Wilson recalls that “after
the third day— it was 3: 30 in the morning and everyone was totally
exhausted — i wanted her to read a text by de sade for one of the por-
traits. i took a pencil to mark the page and said, ‘Can you repeat this
five times? Can you repeat this 20 times?’ the first take was perfect.
her repeats were exactly what i had asked for. and her diction was
impeccable, like a classical actress. i think she could do Medea or Diary
of a Madman.” — ELISABETH VINCENTELLI
I SAID, “YOU
YOU END BIG.”