Domus: How many people normally work on the design of an Olympic opening ceremony and how many different skills are involved?
Marco Balich: We start out with a work team of ten and end up with 950. It involves event directors, choreographers, set designers, prop designers, artistic directors, segment producers, technical directors, operations managers, cast managers and all the audio, lights and scenery suppliers. Added to these are thousands of volunteers – many of the people you see during the event – who make it possible to produce a spectacle of this magnitude.
Domus: What factors absolutely must not be neglected when designing complex events like those you have worked on for many years now?
Marco Balich: You work for two or three years and have to cover a range of different areas, from dancing to fireworks, engineering, dreams, costumes and philosophy. It is like producing a major blockbuster that is seen worldwide but performed just once, and there must be no mistakes.
Domus: What is the smallest event you have ever designed? Did it take the same skills as larger-scale ones?
Marco Balich: A birthday party for my children, four of them and extremely noisy! Big or small, it makes no difference. What matters is the passion and emotions transmitted by every part of the work.
Domus: Is the timeframe a restriction or simply a project factor?
Marco Balich: It is our job to be ready for a certain time or day. Everything revolves around this deadline, the design and organisational demands and the skills in the field.
Domus: Do any schools teach your profession? What countries have developed the greatest culture in it?
Marco Balich:You have to be extremely curious and citizens of the world. These are the main requirements for anyone wishing to pursue this path.
Domus: What was your experience with the Expo 2015 organisers like? What was your shared programme?
Marco Balich: I had to provide the brief for the Italian Pavilion and its fundamental idea is the nursery, the metaphor chosen by Italy in response to the major challenge of Expo 2015, “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”.
Domus: I read that the Tree of Life was inspired by the designs of Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campidoglio and the mosaic in Otranto. Were there any references for the design of the light shows and plays of water?
Marco Balich: The Tree of Life is stage machinery designed by GiòForma. Las Vegas was the inspiration behind the light shows and plays of water.
Domus: Can you tell us about the Italian Pavilion’s cultural programme and the daily and nocturnal shows that can be seen during Expo 2015?
Marco Balich: As its artistic director, I invite everyone to visit the exhibition on Italian identity inside Palazzo Italia and then the Tree of Life shows every hour, on the dot. Five works of art have been included in the exhibition to symbolise the great history of Italian artistic genius: Vucciria by Renato Guttuso, Ortolano by Arcimboldo, Hora, a marble statue dating from the 1st century AD, brought from the Uffizi, and finally a Marble Table Leg with Griffins (Trapezophoros) of the 4th century BC, stolen by tomb robbers and retrieved by the Carabinieri. There is also a sculpture made especially for Expo 2015 by Vanessa Beecroft, one of the most interesting Italian contemporary artists.