If you want to see how potent minimalistic staging, costumes and acting can be in opera then Peter Sellars' twin productions of Iolanta and Perséphone, commissioned by Teatro Real's Artistic Director, Gerard Mortier, are the epitome of this style. From the moment the spotlight focuses on Ekaterina Scherbachenko and her attendants, and the first words of Tchaikovsky's Iolanta are sung, this production is captivating. The singing is superb throughout, as it has to be as there is nothing else happening on stage to hide any imperfection behind. Set on an otherwise empty stage the simple 'door' frames, with their improbably balanced obsidian stones, are used to indicate different rooms and structures within the imagined spaces of the story. This works exceptionally well with the lighting effects used giving both depth and definition to the artists movements on stage.
Sellars uses the same set for Stravinsky's Perséphone to great effect with changing backdrops and lighting giving the simple frame structures a completely different feel. Whilst I felt Stravinsky's piece was less compelling musically, it was beautifully performed and had the additional interest of the Cambodian dancers from Amrita Performing Arts who shadowed the story in their unique form of ballet.