Opera Scotland

Carl Toms Suggest updates

Born Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Notts, 29 May 1927.

Died 4 August 1999.

English designer.

Carl Toms is perhaps known mostly for his work on drama, especially for his twenty year period as Head of Design at the National Theatre. However the occasions when he worked on opera were still quite numerous and worth recording.

He studied first at the Royal College of Art, then under Michel St Denis at the Old Vic school, before working as Oliver Messel's assistant on a number of projects.

His operatic work included two long-lived Rossini stagings by Douglas Craig for Sadler's Wells - Cinderella in 1959 and The Barber of Seville in 1960. Both these were seen a number of times in Scotland. He designed Peter Ebert's production of Susanna's Secret for Glyndebourne, and Göran Gentele's of Iphigénie en Tauride for Covent Garden. Both these were brought to the Edinburgh Festival.

His designs for the premiere production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Aldeburgh in 1960 were tailored to the restricted stage of the Jubilee Hall, and were not seem anywhere else, Another premiere he created the setting for was Malcolm Williamson's Our Man in Havana (Sadler's Wells 1963). He worked with Welsh National Opera on Tito Gobbi's production of Falstaff, and with Scottish Opera on John Copley's Un ballo in maschera. He worked frequently with Frank Dunlop during his National Theatre days, and Dunlop brought him back to Edinburgh in 1986 to design his production of Weber's Oberon.

Toms worked frequently abroad, and his operatic work included Macbeth in Vienna (1982). In the USA he designed Mastersingers for New York City (1975), Thaïs for San Francisco (1976), and Hamlet at San Diego (1978).

He designed the first productions of several plays by Tom Stoppard, including Night and Day, On the Razzle (which opened in Edinburgh) and The Real Thing. Straight theatre productions at the Edinburgh Festival included The Winter's Tale in 1966 and A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1967. His designs for Clifford Williams' productions of Richard II and Richard III, with Derek Jacobi, were seen in Aberdeen in 1988.

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