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Pelléas et Melisande at the Royal Opera House poster

Contributed by Florian Hardwig on Dec 4th, 2022. Artwork published in .
Pelléas et Melisande at the Royal Opera House poster 2
Source: www.facebook.com Royal Opera House. License: All Rights Reserved.

Kismet is the most enchanting, downright hypnotic of the many swirling typefaces from the last quarter of the 19th century. Don’t stare too long into the M’s owl eyes!

John F. Cumming’s 1879 design for the Boston Type Foundry foundry can here be seen in use on the poster for Claude Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Melisande, performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1978. Richard Bird and Michael Mayhew combined it with golden scrolls that resemble flowing hair or water, echoing its spiraling forms. The central “et” is neither the ampersand glyph as included in the typeface, nor a combination of E and t: it rather is a custom ligature consisting of the left part of Kismet’s & and a t, with the ampersand’s swash transplanted to the right of the latter.

Accompanying text is set in Rockwell. The Royal Opera House logo is based on Belwe Bold (1976). G&B Arts Ltd. printed the poster (via V&A’s Theatre and Performance Collection).

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  • Kismet
  • Rockwell

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