Global Call for Emerging Set Designers from the Global South

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International Mentorship Program

UNITA for Future, in partnership with Opera for Peace and Scenography Today, has announced an open call for the first-ever International Mentorship Program for Emerging Set Designers.

Three emerging set designers from the global south (see Requisites) will be selected for this opportunity, providing them with one-to-one professional support from three of the top set designers in opera to broaden their network, skills, and opportunities, fostering excellence and diversity in the world of opera and the performing arts.

The 2023 mentors are Paolo Fantin, Gary McCann, and Christian Schmidt.

Submit your materials by 30 November 2022 to be considered. There is NO age limit to apply!

Participant Benefits
  • One-to-one quarterly remote meetings with respective mentor
  • In-person participation in a production at one of the opera houses where the mentor will stage a show. Financial, travel, and accommodation support will be provided
  • Additional masterclasses in related topics are planned
  • Having previous experience as a set designer for pre-professional or professional productions and/or being a current member or alumnus of a young artist program
  • Born in a country in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, or Latin America
  • Proficient in English (Italian is desirable)
  • Confirmed availability to participate in the final events in Europe or the United States
  • Ability to share program content on social media

There is NO age limit to apply!

Documents to submit
  • An online portfolio of your work with details on the production(s) and venue(s) (link to file sharing platform)
  • Résumé with your contact details
  • Cover letter describing your introduction to opera and why you are uniquely qualified for this opportunity
How to apply

Please send an email to: indicating “MP23” in the email subject (no other text is needed). You will automatically receive an email with the link to the application form to fill in. Please check your spam folder, as the email containing the link may land there.

Selection process

Applications must be submitted by 30 November 2022. They will be evaluated against the criteria by a panel and submitted to the mentors for final selection. Applicants selected for one of the three available places in the program will receive a confirmation via email by January 16, 2023.

Program description

UNITA for Future ambassadors & set designers Christian Schmidt, Paolo Fantin, and Gary McCann will mentor, for ca. 18 months, one emerging set designer each, who meet the requirements for application and advance through a two-step selection process. At the end of the program, each mentee is invited to an opera production staged by their mentor as a backstage observer and a guest to the premiere’s events.

Under the program, the three mentees will receive masterclasses in arts marketing and management and on other professionally relevant topics, hosted by UNITA for Future and Opera for Peace’s advisors. Mentees’ personal and professional stories will be shared via Scenography Today and Opera for Peace’s channels.

Program Timeline
  • November 30, 2022: application deadline
  • By January 16, 2023: the selected mentees receive admittance confirmation.
  • The dates of remote meetings will be agreed upon with the mentors directly.
  • The dates of planned masterclasses will be communicated during the program.
  • Late 2023 and 2024: final productions in Europe and the United States (dates to be communicated during the program).
2023 Mentors

Paolo Fantin has worked closely with director Damiano Michieletto since 2004. He was born in Italy in 1981 and studied set design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. In 2011 he received the prestigious Premio Abbiati for his designs for Sigismondo at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro as well as for Don Giovanni at La Fenice in Venice and for Madama Butterfly at the Teatro Regio in Turin. In 2005, Micheletto and Fantin were finalists in the Ring Award, the International Competition for Stage Direction and Stage Design in Graz, with their project for Le nozze di Figaro. Since then, more than 60 productions for major opera houses worldwide can be counted in his portfolio.

Gary McCann is one of the most in-demand opera designers of his generation: his set and costume designs have been experienced by audiences at the four corners of the globe – from Australia to Russia, Scandinavia to South Africa. He has collaborated with some of the world’s leading theatre and opera companies, including the National Theatre of the UK, the Wiener Staatsoper, the National Opera of Norway, the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, the Fenice, Venice, and his work has also been seen in both the West End and on Broadway. He is based in Brighton, UK.

Christian Schmidt has worked regularly with director Claus Guth since 1992; their collaborations include Der fliegende Holländer (Bayreuth Festival, 2003), Der Ring des Nibelungen (Hamburg State Opera, 2007–9), Mozart’s Da Ponte operas (Salzburg Festival, 2006–9) and Fidelio (Salzburg Festival, 2015). He has also worked with directors Shirin Neshat (Aida, Salzburg Festival), Christof Loy (including La forza del destino for Dutch National Opera and Tosca for Finnish National Opera), Hans Neuenfels (including Der König Kandaules for Vienna Volksoper and Die Entführung aus dem Serail for Stuttgart Opera) and Andreas Homoki. Schmidt was named Set Designer of the Year (2003) and Costume Designer of the Year (2005 and 2012) by Opernwelt. He won the Rolf Mares Prize of the City of Hamburg for his designs for Simon Boccanegra (2006) and was nominated as Designer of the Year at the 2017 International Opera Awards. Christian Schmidt was born in Coburg in 1966 and studied set and costume designs at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna.

Partner Organizations

Opera for Peace

Opera for Peace is a new cultural movement reflecting the reality of today’s globalized and diverse world, building an inclusive and creative future together through passion and determination. Working in six continents, Opera for Peace is the largest network of opera artists, providing a platform for artists and partners to speak about the essential social issues facing our world and society today. They give special support to artists from disadvantaged backgrounds, promoting social justice and equity. Through global partnerships they promote the Circular Economy values of Sustainability, Solidarity, Renewal, Connection, and Innovation.

Scenography Today

Since 2016, the digital platform Scenography Today has grown its role as an online place of reference for set designers, academies, and performing arts lovers. Its interviews, articles, and reports are included in the bibliography of books and academic programs around the world. The magazine has a highly engaged niche following of ca 100.000 worldwide through its social channels.

UNITA for Future

UNITA – United Talents for the Future develops cross-sectoral partnerships, programs, and strategies to support the cultural and creative sectors, believing that creativity and culture are key drivers of thriving societies and dialogue among nations, ultimately leading to peace and prosperity. UNITA’s programs of action are grounded in best practices and academic knowledge in the fields of cultural economics, intellectual property, cultural diplomacy, humanities for development, and innovation.


Anna Lluna | Assistant to the General Director, Opera for Peace


Mentorship Program Team | Scenography Today