|Where the real and imaginary meet: artist, creative director and set designer, Professor Gaetano Castelli with one of his paintings at his studio in Rome, Italy. Portrait by Paul McDonnell. Click on pictures for full-screen slideshow|
One of Italy’s great designers, artist Professor Gaetano Castelli was Director General of Rome's Academy of Fine Arts and works on Italy’s top television programs including the latest show by Oscar-winning Roberto Benigni & 18 Sanremo Music Festival extravaganzas plus winning the Rose D’Argento and two Rose d’Oro awards at the Montreux International Television Festival. Today, he is the creative director of the spectacular, multi-million dollar stage shows at Paris’ Moulin Rouge. Jeanne-Marie Cilento talks to the gallant and enthusiastic designer at his studio in Rome
STROLLING through the great walnut doors of a grand palazzo in Rome’s elegant Via Margutta you enter another world. The city’s
cacophony of people and cars disappear as you are enveloped by a green
sanctuary of tall trees and gardens ringed by stately baroque buildings. Like a
village within the city, this sanctuary was the place where Audrey Hepburn and
Gregory Peck filmed Roman Holiday and today is home to film studios, offices
|View across to Villa Medici from the Castelli Studio|
Castelli & Associati is so hidden away up among steep, winding stairs, stone pathways and flowering trees that someone is always dispatched to meet visitors and lead them through this beautiful haven. Today, it is Manuel Bellucci taking me from the enormous entrance courtyard through the gardens to the studio.
Inside, the mezzanine space is a hive of activity as the
studio team work on their many projects which range from theatre to television and fashion to architectural projects. Chiara Castelli, Gaetano’s beautiful blond daughter,
oversees the studio and is a trained artist and designer herself. Like her father
who was the director and a professor at Rome's Accademia di Belle Arti,
she also taught there as well as working at the studio alongside talented designers Manuel
Bellucci and Luigi Sabbatella.
|Talented designers Chiara Castelli, Gigi Sabbatella & Manuel Bellucci|
When Professor Gaetano Castelli arrives, he has a commanding presence tempered by a natural charm and grace and perfect manners. Below his leonine mane, he has the smooth, year-round tan and fitness of the avid tennis player. Once we are at his desk, he speaks about his work with great passion in his signature gravelly voice. He travels across the world for his work and seems to spend half of his time on planes visiting projects from Paris to Macao where a new version of the Moulin Rouge show will open in 2016.
|Gaetano Castelli with his wife Gail Milissa Grant|
Growing up in Rome, Gaetano Castelli knew from an early age he was interested in art. His father was an art director and his mother was one of the first women in Italy to work at a bank. “When I was a young boy my uncle suggested I become an accountant,” he says. “But I realized I was made for an artistic career. My mother helped me to follow my dream, she said to me ‘I want you to do what I could not do which is to follow what you love'.”
Professor Castelli’s career bloomed immediately as he began
not only teaching but also working as an assistant set designer on television
shows. “I started teaching and working in TV at the same time. I began to teach
when I was very young at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma. By the time I was 24 I had already started creating the sets for
major television shows and I was travelling across Italy to work especially to
Florence and Torino."
|Minimalist set for Roberto Benigni's 10 Commandments, December 2014|
|A dramatic moving set for the TV program Fantastico 1980-90|
“I worked at the Teatro Delle Vittorie for 15 years when it was the peak of variety television in the 1980s. At that time, the Saturday night shows were a ritual for many people. They wanted to watch something interesting after dinner, commenting with family and friends, singing the songs and admiring the dancers.”
|Sculptural creations for the TV program La Sai L'Ultima 1990-2000|
|Creating the streamlined design for TV show Fiorello in 2011|
|Painting by Gaetano Castelli Rome, 2007|
Gaetano Castelli has created beautiful drawings and paintings of costumes and his capacity to not only see the big picture of the set design but also to focus on every detail of the costumes is one of his outstanding talents. “I see the dresses of the dancers like pieces of architecture with particular lines, curves, perspectives and diagonals which are all designed to create a strong visual effect," he says. "I also try to imagine the face of the person who wears the costumes and express the soul of the dancer through the design. Costumes should make you dream.”
|Designing the La Dolce Vita set for the Sanremo Music Festival in 2011|
|A colourful retro design for the Sanremo Festival in 2004|
|A technically complex, clam-like shell featured at Sanremo 2012|
“I love working with students from across the globe," he explains. "My advice to young designers is to be open to everything and prepared to work on a range of things from the set of a movie to designing a business card or the cover of a music album. It is important when you are young to start with small jobs not with something too big. The artist needs to emerge step by step and be appreciated and recognized for his talent then he gains the trust of great directors."
|Hand-drawn sketch for the set of TV program Rock Politik|
|Painting by Gaetano Castelli Rome, 2005|
“I don’t ever tire of my work and I always enjoy designing each new production,” he says today. “Whenever I go on holiday I really miss the work as it is very creative and gives you so much energy.”
Click on pictures for full-screen slideshow