“A Day in the Life” with Painter and Set Designer Gerard Gauci

Gerard Gauci has been set designer/art director for Opera Atelier since the company’s earliest history. 38 years ago, Jeanette Lajeunesse-Zingg (my co-artistic director) and I came across the cover of a glossy magazine featuring one of Gerard’s creations – an almost surreal painting of a baroque dancer, full of magic, movement and charm. We pinned the Magazine cover onto our bulletin board, never imagining that we would ever have the opportunity to meet the Artist. Through a series of extraordinary coincidences, an introduction was arranged and we arrived at Gerard’s apartment, expecting to meet a middle-aged artist whose years would match the maturity of his formidable technique and taste. Instead, the door of the apartment was opened by a very young man who had just graduated from OCAD with the looks of a Renaissance prince and the charm of an aristocrat. By the end of the meeting, Gerard, Jeanette and I knew we were kindred spirits and he began designing OA productions that same year. This collaboration has never faltered. Opera Atelier enjoys the busiest international touring schedule of any Canadian theatre company and Gerard’s designs have now been featured at major festivals and in major opera houses around the world, including the USA, Italy, Germany, France, England, Japan, Singapore and Korea. Gerard’s exceptional work ethic, his unerring taste and his unflappable good nature have played an integral part in establishing Opera Atelier’s signature style. Throughout the inevitable challenges and tensions of constantly producing and international touring, our friendship and admiration have only increased over the years.

-Written by Marshall Pynkoski, Co-Artistic Director of Opera Atelier

Gerard Gauci
The magazine cover that launched my career with Opera Atelier
Gerard Gauci
In the rehearsal hall touching up set pieces for Opera Atelier’s production of Handel’s The Resurrection. Dragon sculpture commissioned from prop artist Karen Rodd.
Communing with props for the show.
Arranging lilies for this Easter-themed opera.
At work in my studio.
A recent painting The Pavilion, acrylic on canvas, 2023.
Gerard Gauci
In progress; my painted harpsichord interior. This is a collaborative project between me and with my harpsichord-building, flute-playing cousin Henri.
Gerard Gauci
An end-of-day ravine walk with Basil, our bossy-but-loveable French bulldog


Which ‘hood are you living in?

I split my time between two neighbourhoods. I live uptown with my partner Roberto at Yonge and St. Clair. He is a Classics professor and you’d be surprised how handy it is to have one around the house when you work in the opera world. Here we have transit connections and easy access to a ravine system that is perfect for dog-walking and decompressing. I work at my studio in a neighbourhood that real estate agents like to call the “East Junction” near Lansdowne and Dupont. The separation of home and work spaces is important for me since I need to remove myself from creative projects to get perspective on them. When I work the space tends to become a bit chaotic and while I don’t mind working in chaos I certainly don’t want to live in it.

What do you do?

I wear a number of different hats and throughout my career, I’ve enjoyed moving from one creative discipline to another. Since the mid-1980 I’ve been the resident set designer for Opera Atelier, Canada’s period opera and ballet company specializing in works from the Baroque era. I’ve designed their complete repertoire over the last thirty-odd years and my duties include art direction, prop design and occasionally costume design.

In recent years, I’ve been asked to design museum exhibitions, a practice that dovetails nicely with stage design and satisfies my fascination for art history and precious objects. I’ve created exhibition environments for shows at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Aga Khan Museum and the Gardiner Museum.

Since graduating from The Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University) I’ve never ceased painting and have exhibited my work primarily in Toronto and Montreal. Painting has been at the core of my design work for both the stage and the museum.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently preparing the sets and props for Opera Atelier’s spring production of Handel’s The Resurrections to be presented fully staged at Koerner Hall, Telus Centre, April 6, 8 & 9. This production was ready to open in 2020 just as Covid lockdowns shuttered all theatre and concert venues in Toronto so we are especially excited to finally present Handel’s first masterpiece just in time for Easter. I have designed a site-specific set that compliments the beautiful interior of Koerner Hall while transforming it with multiple playing spaces and extravagant decor.

Where can we find your work?

My work for Opera Atelier’s upcoming spring production of Handel’s The Resurrection can be seen at Koerner Hall on April 6, 8 & 9 (Tickets at operaatelier.com). My paintings can be viewed on my website and at the Galerie de Bellefeuille.



About Demian Vernieri 627 Articles
Demian is an Argentinian retired musician, avid gamer and editor for the Montréal Guardian, Toronto Guardian, Calgary Guardian and Vancouver Guardian websites.