Allan Lees OAM

Designer - Set/Costume

Management: Worldwide

Phantom of the Opera - Auckland
“But it all happens on the stage. The production design will for many fans be a highlight of the evening thanks to the masterful hand of Allan Lees. The backdrops are stunning".
Dione Joseph-Theatre Review,NZ, 12 February 2016

"...Allan Lees beautiful scene paintings create a real feeling of depth with trompe-l'œil perspective effects". 
Paul Simei-Barton - NZ Herald12 February 2016

Who Cares? From Embraceable You – West Australian Ballet
 a silhouetted city skyline as background, eye-catching costumes by Allan Lees…”
Margaret Mercer, Dance Australia, 15 May 2015

Bierhalle – Royal New Zealand Ballet
“Set in a Bavarian beer hall - with a stunning set and costumes by Allan Lees - lederhosen, laughter and loveliness abound.”
The Dominion Post – Ann Hunt  28 February 2013

Don Quixote,  West Australian Ballet
“Australian designer, Allan Lees’ costuming was sumptuous and fantastical – it truly looked like a fairytale had come to life on stage. The satin pink matador uniforms, swirling capes and sparkling bodices gave the performance extra panache and the floating dresses an incredible aura of romance. The set was similarly magical, with huge screens of bougainvillea and a memorable moon”
Australian Stage Online – Sarah Green  May 11, 2010

Carmen, Southern Opera
“…in its original 1830s period, with a sullen, hot, sun-bleached Goya-esque colour scheme, Allan Lees’ brilliantly conceived set adopted this hue, with its three tiers of arched windows, alternately opaque or transparent.”
NZ Listener - John Pattinson 2007

Tosca, Opera Australia
“Tosca begins inside the church Sant’Andrea delle Valle and set designer Allan Lees has given us a fantastic tableau of crumbling gilded church interior packed with scarlet choirboys and gold-and-purple Episcopal splendour. When we move in Act II to the Palazzo Farnese, the villainous Baron Scarpia’s office is complete with false walls, padded torture chambers and decanters of wine that you suspect are more likely to be poisoned than not. Act III is set atop the tower of the Castel Sant’Angelo…”
Alexis Harley, On-line 2005

Tosca, Opera Queensland
“…designed to exploit the dramatic impact, Allan Lees’ set design is magnificent opening on to a baroque chapel of the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, complete with wafts of incense and leading to the final showdown on the Castel Sant’Angelo including the massive angel statue.”
Emma Nelms,  On-line 2003

Hamlet, Royal New Zealand Ballet
“…the excellent design by Allan Lees – large stone obelisks are manoeuvred  to indicate locale…costume design offers strong shapes, a brave use of fabric for clearly characterised identities, a vivid sense of history.”
Clement Crisp Financial Times London 1992

Hamlet, Royal New Zealand Ballet
“…a superb design concept by Allan Lees.  The soaring metallic towers of the dark set establish moments of doomed solitude, while full-cut, wine-toned court gowns give expression to the amorous jousting of the court.”
Sherril Cooper The Press Christchurch 1992

Allan Lees’ career has spanned a period of over fifty years as designer for opera, ballet, theatre and musicals, and as a teacher and theatre consultant.  His designs have been staged throughout Australia and in New Zealand, United States of America, England, Germany and Austria. Allan was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2013 for his services to the performing arts. 

In 2016 Allan was the costume designer for Romeo and Juliet with The Richmond Ballet, Virginia USA and in 2017 Don Quixote (for which he designed set and costumes) returns to the stage for a revival season at His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth, with the West Australian Ballet.

Other recent designs include the costumes and backdrop for Who Cares? part of the triple bill Embraceable You – A Celebration of Balanchine at West Australian Ballet, the revival of Cinderella (for which he designed set and costumes) for West Australian Ballet, the New Zealand production of Phantom of the Opera on national tour, Bier Halle, choreographed by Ethan Stiefel for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Madama Butterfly, and the inaugural production for Southern Opera of Carmen in New Zealand as well as the set and costumes for Who Killed Mario Lanza at Riverside Parramatta.

A selection of Allan’s costume designs were chosen for the international exhibition Costume at the Turn of the Century 1990 – 2015 at the Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum, taking place from June 15 to August 1, 2015 in Moscow, and again in mid-2016 in Beijing.

Born in Dunedin, New Zealand, he was commissioned to design Swan Lake for the Royal Ballet’s prima ballerina Svetlana Beriosova and invited to join the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust in Sydney.  He was appointed Resident designer of the Old Tote Theatre Company, fore-runner to the Sydney Theatre Company and later Head of Design for the National Institute of Dramatic Art.  Awarded an Australia Council Artist Development Grant for further studies in Europe, he spent time at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden working with the esteemed opera director, John Copley.  As an Associate Consultant he assisted in theatre consultancy with venues including the Adelaide Festival Centre, the Victorian Arts Centre in Melbourne and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane.  Allan was also Consultant and General Manager of The State Opera House in Wellington. 

Responsible as a theatre designer for well over 350 major productions –
Opera Productions include:
For Opera Australia; Don Pasquale (1967), Fidelio (1970) and Concert Hall production (1979), Rigoletto (1972), Jenufa (1974), I Masnadieri (1980), Hamlet (1982), Die Walkure (1983), Adriana Lecouvreur (1984).   His set designs for the John Copley production of Tosca (1981) were acclaimed during the 2000 Sydney Olympics Arts Festival. 

For The Queensland Opera and successor Opera Queensland;  Madama Butterfly (1974), La Traviata (1974), Cosi Fan Tutte (1974), Don Giovanni (1976), The Marriage of Figaro (1977), Martha (1980), Tosca (1988) (1995) (2003) and (2011). 

For State Opera of South Australia; the re-staging of Fidelio (1989), Adriana Lecouvreur (1994) 

For Victoria State Opera; Fidelio (1988), Tosca (1995) 

For New Zealand; The Gipsy Baron (1960), La Vie Parisienne (1963), Don Giovanni (1965) (1992), The Barber of Seville (1970) (2000), Faust (1970), Cosi Fan Tutte (1991) (1992), La Boheme (1991) (1998), Il Trovatore (1992), La Traviata (1993), The Merry Widow (1993) (1995), Amahl and the Night Visitors (1993), The Magic Flute (1996) (1999), Noyes Fludde (1996), Tosca (1996), Rigoletto (1997), The Marriage of Figaro (1997), Madama Butterfly (2003), Carmen (2007).

Ballet Productions include:
For the Royal New Zealand Ballet; Swan Lake (1965), Romeo & Juliet (1988), Hamlet (1992), Bierhalle (2013).

For The Richmond Ballet, Virginia USA; Romeo & Juliet (costumes) (1996) (2011).

Theatre and Musicals include:
Love For Love (1974), Equus (1974), The Alchemist (1977), As You Like It (1978), The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1979), The Circle (1982), Les Miserables (1994), Jekyll & Hyde (1997), The Way of the World (1998), Macbeth (1999), Cabaret (1999), Three Sisters (2000), Hay Fever (2000), Kiss Me Kate (2000), Othello (2001), and The Jungle Book (2001) for which he received the Costume Designer of the Year Award, and Phantom of the Opera (2013).

Allan Lees has, as well as his teaching at NIDA, been Guest Lecturer in Costume at TAFE NSW and Guest Lecturer in Theatre at the NZ Drama School in Wellington.  

Allan Lees is managed by Sarah Thomas: sarah.thomas@artsmanagement.com.au
and Sarah Holloway: sarah@artsmanagement.com.au
February 2017
This biography is for general information purposes only and not for publication.
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