Obituary: Robert Ornbo 1931-2008

Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Obituary: Robert Ornbo 1931-2008Robert Ornbo.
UK - LSI Online has learned the sad news of the death of Robert Ornbo, one of the most prolific lighting designers of the 20th Century. Here, his friend and colleague Richard Pilbrow remembers Robert's career:

Robert Ornbo was a brilliant and prolific lighting designer, whose work on over 300 productions ranged across drama, musicals, opera and ballet to events such as the Edinburgh Tattoo, the Royal Tournament, the naming ceremonies of ocean-going liners and events at Buckingham Place for the Royal Family. His influence has had a profound impact on theatrical lighting over the last 50 years.

Robert was the first lighting designer to join Richard Pilbrow in the fledgling company Theatre Projects in 1960 and he became managing director of Theatre Projects Lighting during its heyday when its team of lighting designers, who included Robert Bryan, John B. Read, David Hersey and Andy Bridge, worked at the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet, Glyndebourne, the English National Opera, the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare, and across the West End.

Robert's work enhanced such productions as Jonathan Miller's The Merchant of Venice with Laurence Olivier (National Theatre at the Old Vic 1970); Hal Prince's Cabaret (Palace Theatre London 1968) and Company (Alvin Theatre NYC 1970 - Tony Award nomination) both with designer Boris Aronson; Pelleas and Melisande (Royal Opera House 1969) with designer Josef Svoboda; Back to Methuselah (National Theatre at the Old Vic) and The Ring Cycle (Coliseum 1971-1973) with designer Ralph Koltai.

It was the latter Ring Cycle that caught the attention of Buckingham Palace. Robert began regularly lighting shows at the Palace including the Masque for H.M. The Queen's Silver Anniversary (1972) and the 90th Birthday Concert for the Queen Mother in 1990.

Robert lit the opening season for the Sydney Opera House with the opera War and Peace, again with designer Ralph Koltai. Thus began an extraordinarily international career. Robert led the way for English stage lighting designers operating abroad. He lit productions in Amsterdam, Beirut, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, The Hague, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Oslo, Oman, Malmo, Moscow and elsewhere. So successful was his work on the Choregie - a festival of opera and music - for many years in Orange, France that he was honoured with the Freedom of that city in 1976.

Robert's many shows in the West End included: "40 Years On, The Ruling Class, Voyage Around My Father, Grease, Habeas Corpus, I and Albert, Jeeves, Dad's Army, Wild Oats, The Two Ronnies, Pack of Lies, I'm Not Rappaport, with Travesties and London Assurance both also on Broadway.

He also worked widely in the regional theatre for the Chichester Festival Theatre, the 69 Theatre Company, Birmingham Repertory Company, Bristol Old Vic, Northcott Theatre Exeter; the Palace Theatre Watford, the Theatre Royal Windsor; the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith; the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guilford and the Birmingham Hippodrome.

For the ballet Robert lit Creation du Monde followed by Anastasia at the Royal Opera House, several pieces for London Contemporary Dance and Giselle for the Northern Ballet Company; for Kent Opera The Magic Flute and for the Glyndebourne Festival Cosi Fan Tutti; the double bill L'Enfant et les Sortileges and L'Heure Espagnole.

In 1976 Robert designed the lighting for the Bi-Centennial American Birthday Military Tattoo at Wolf Trap Washington DC. This led Robert to a lifetime engagement with Tattoos, revolutionising the lighting for the Edinburgh Tattoo, the Berlin Tattoo and the Royal Tournament for over 20 years.The world of large-scale military spectacles opened up another field for Robert's talents: the big event. Robert traveled the world: The Royal Hors

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