Michael Scott-Mitchell

Designer - Set/Costume

Management: General

The Elixir of Love, Wellington Opera House
"...One is gripped immediately by ther wacky and wonderful sets and props by Michael Scott-Mitchell".
John Button, Dominion Post June 2018

The Merry Widow, Opera Australia
“…Michael Scott-Mitchell’s set is a sumptuous filigree of art deco panels, glittering almost as much as Lehár’s popular and bubbly score. And perhaps purists may think its gilding the lily a little, but moving the setting forward into the decadent excess of 1920s Parisian society, gives director Graham Murphy licence to create a lavish spectacle to delight the eye as much as the ear”.
Dennis Clements, Australian Stage Online, January 2018

Carmen, Opera Australia, Arts Centre Melbourne
.”……a seedy, decaying town square as the superb set (Michael Scott-Mitchell), full of delightful details.”
Barney Zwartz, Opera Critic May 2017

“One of the biggest stars is set designer Michael Scott-Mitchell whose church of Sant'Andrea della Valle (Act I) is quite magnificent, while the Act II Palazzo Farnese and Act III Castel Sant'Angelo are highly effective”
Barney Zwartz, Sydney Morning Herald 

“Set designer Michael Scott-Mitchell belonged centre stage, holding Rachelle Durkin’s hand as the crowd stomped the floor and called for more. Because his incredible quasi corrugated iron sets weren’t just the real stars of show – they stole the show.
Andrew Mole, Riverine News

“Michael Scott-Mitchell’s set designs are fabulous, ranging from imposing pillared columns retreating in perspective (a mix of real sets and CGI) to once grand, bombed out buildings and shattered glass windows in the midst of the civil war. Projections (e.g. photos of soldiers) are also used to great effect. I also particularly liked the use of the revolve/platform for the ‘train’.
Lynne Lancaster ArtsHub

“Swift-moving and packed with detail, Des McAnuff’s well-drilled production is greatly aided by
Michael Scott-Mitchell’s brilliant settings.”
Frank Hatherley, Stage Whispers

“Elke Neidhardt, with her team – Michael Scott-Mitchell (sets), Nick Schlieper (Lighting & associate designer) and Stephen Curtis (Costumes) – have come up with one of the most beautiful, thoughtful and spectacular stagings of recent times.”
Hugh Canning Opera (UK)

“The ravishing sets, designed by Michael Scott-Mitchell-who was also responsible for the recent Adelaide Ring Cycle and the cauldron design at the Sydney Olympic Games-are magnificent, making use of rich, burnished jewel-like colours to create an iconic medieval fantasy world.”
 Bill Stephens ARTLOOK

“The set alone is worth the price of admission, though part of its brilliance is that it complements the play rather than competing with it.”
Allen Myers Green Left Weekly 

“An absurd corrugated-iron set which succeeds”
Peter McCallum Sydney Morning Herald

“But back to the greatest of the many good elements of this production: the design… While the individual artistic influences of each of the designers were distinguishable, there was nevertheless a strong sense of thematic cohesion in the production…I sensed that this production involved the vision of a group of strong creative genii who thankfully knew how to co-operate.”
Nicholas Cavanaugh M/C Reviews

“Olympic-quality settings like Scott-Mitchell’s magical balloon forest, his mix of water and fire and the rising rings that were surely descended from his iconic Sydney Games cauldron”
Jeremy Eccles State of the Arts

"There were four stars in this Production, and the first was the set."
Ballet Talk

Michael Scott-Mitchell studied architecture at Sydney University before receiving a Bachelor of Dramatic Art - Design from NIDA. Michael has since established himself as a formidable force within the arts in Australia as well as internationally, designing a raft of highly acclaimed productions and events across a broad spectrum of theatrical and architectural genres: drama, opera, musicals, dance, Olympic and National Ceremonies, restaurants, hotels, exhibitions, film and television. He is also a highly regarded educator, holding significant teaching and academic positions.  

His extensive credits include the set design for the long-awaited and first all-Australian production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, mounted by State Opera of South Australia in 2004. A monumental design challenge requiring more than 20 set models, the process spanned 4 years and was a huge undertaking. The production received worldwide acclaim and continues to be held in high regard as one of the landmark productions of Wagner’s epic work. The production received 11 Helpmann Awards in 2005, an unprecedented number for any production to date, with Michael being awarded Best Scenic Design. A major exhibition of Michael’s photographs of the Ring Cycle was mounted at the Sydney Opera House in 2005 under the auspices of the Goethe Institute. The National Library has since acquired the collection.

He was also a founding director of the architectural firm D4DESIGN formed in 1987 with partners Bill MacMahon & Stephen Roberts, the company took on a wide range of design briefs, amongst the most notable, the design for the multi award winning Rockpool Restaurant in Sydney’s Rocks and Regents Court Hotel. Furniture designed by D4DESIGN is today held in the permanent exhibition of the Powerhouse Museum.

Michael has established a solid track record of meeting complex, challenging, high profile briefs with incisive, clear artistic vision matched with versatile management skills.  

Arguably the most wide-reaching production Michael has been involved in was the 2000 Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies, which was televised worldwide to billions of viewers. His design of the Cauldron & Ceremonial Stage was a major triumph and after the conclusion of the Games, the Cauldron was installed as the centrepiece of Sydney Olympic Park as an enduring symbol of the successful Olympic and Paralympic Games. In a national survey undertaken three years after the games, the image of Cathy Freeman lighting the Cauldron was deemed as the moment that most penetrated the national psyche, encapsulating the spirit of the Sydney Olympic Games. The cauldron was given permanent heritage protection to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the 2000 Games, and is the youngest item to be placed on the State Heritage Register.

Following the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Michael was invited to design the Cauldron, Ceremonial Stages and a number of Cultural Segments for the Opening Ceremony of the 15th Asian Games in Doha, Qatar in 2006, which was also televised worldwide. The Cauldron, in the form of a giant astrolabe, was lit in a spectacular manner by the Qatari Emir’s son, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Al-Thani, who rode his horse to the top of the Khalifa International Stadium, climbing to a height of 30 metres. The pioneering work Michael undertook on the Sydney Olympic Cauldron was further explored with the Asian Games Doha Cauldron, which embraced kinetic transformation on a massive scale. Like the Sydney Cauldron, it remains on permanent display at the starting point of the sport city and is lit on ceremonial occasions.

Michael continues to contribute to landmark international productions, recently the Scenic Design for the prestigious Broadway musical Doctor Zhivago, directed by Des McAnuff and the LA and Kennedy Center (Washington DC) seasons of Choreographer Debbie Allen’s Freeze Frame.

He has also continued to design for major companies throughout Australia, including all the state theatre companies, most notably Sydney Theatre Company for whom he has designed 37 productions to date, most recently Arcadia, Arms and the Man, Switzerland and Storm Boy.

In 2017/2018 Michael designed a greatly acclaimed new production of The Merry Widow for Opera Conference, which has been seen in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.  His production of Carmen and Tosca for Opera Australia was seen in Melbourne and Sydney, and L'elisir d'amore in Auckland and Wellington for New Zealand Opera.  Other productions included Diplomacy at the Ensemble Theatre, and Still Point Turning: The Catherine McGregor Story for Sydney Theatre Company.

In 2019, Michael with the rest of the highly successful Merry Widow creative team, returns to Opera Australia for the much anticipated 3-D production of Madama Butterfly. He also returns to Ensemble Theatre for a return season of Diplomacy followed by a tour in NSW and Victoria, and also for Ensemble he does the Set Design for two new productions, The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race and The Last Five Years. And for Great Big Events, Michael will design the set for the 2019 World Indigenous Housing Conference at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, at which over 2000 delegates worldwide will be in attendance.

Balancing his practice as a designer, Michael is highly regarded and sought after as an educator having offered lectures and critiques at Carnegie Mellon University, Tisch, UTS, Wollongong University, NAISDA, Sydney University and NIDA. He has also taught Interior Architecture at the University of NSW.

For many years Michael was an integral part of NIDA, Australia’s leading national institute for training students in the dramatic arts. He was a regular tutor in the design department, joining the Board of Studies in 2006. In 2008 he was appointed Head of Design, in 2011 Director, Undergraduate Studies, and in 2016, Deputy Director/CEO of NIDA, extremely highly regarded positions that utilised Michael’s strategic vision and well-honed management skills. After this long and highly successful association with NIDA, Michael recently resigned from his three positions to concentrate on his career as a Freelance Designer.

Much of the work Michael has undertaken at NIDA in recent years has been focused on exploring ways to provide the education and skills to best support emerging artists and performance-makers in a fast-changing world - how to enable each student to speak with a clear and individual voice.

In recognition of his invaluable contribution to eduction,  the University of New South Wales has appointed Michael as their first ever Professor of Practice in Art and Design.

Michael Scott-Mitchell is managed by Nina Kang:  nina@artsmanagement.com.au

December 2018
This biography is for general information purposes only and not for publication.
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