Vincent Piacentini: a Life in Theatre

Vincent Piacentini Jr., a St. Louis native and graduate of Washington University, was a celebrated set designer for theatre, opera, and film productions. While he would eventually spend much of his career as design manager for the Civic Theatre in Fort  Wayne, Indiana, he had his start in set creation at Washington University.

Harold Blumenfeld, director of the WU Opera Theatre in 1955, offered Piancentini $275.00 for “your designing and completely executing the settings, making limited use of paid personel, when necessary, at the rate of 75¢ per hour,” for three productions: Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci,” and “Hello out there!” by William Saroyan.

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Harold Blumefeld to Vincent Piacentini, 4 January 1955. Vincent Piacentini Papers, Series 01, Box 01, folder 20.

Harold Blumenfeld to Vincent Piacentini, 4 January 1955. Vincent Piacentini Papers, Series 01, Box 01, folder 20.

1955-WU-Opera-flyer-magicflute copy

Flyer for the 1955 Washington University Opera Theater’s production of “The Magic Flute.”

More about Vincent Piacentini

Piacentini had considerable success in New York and San Francisco; in the latter city, his work for the San Francisco Opera, in particular his design for a production of Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) with the use of state-of-the-art production equipment, garnered rave reviews. His meticulously organized papers, which include news clippings, correspondence, reviews, and a diverse assortment of other material related to Piacentini’s long career in the performing arts, were donated to Washington University Archives in 2003.

Piacentini's set design for the 1954 San Francisco Opera's production of "The Flying Dutchman"

Above and Below: Piacentini’s set design for the 1954 San Francisco Opera’s production of “The Flying Dutchman”

1954-flyingdutchman-SFopera-II copyA number of collections focused on dramatics, dance, and other performing arts are available at Special Collections.  Consult this guide for more information.


This post is part of an occasional series, “Special Delivery – Letters from the WUSTL Archives and Special Collections.”

For more information about the letters and documents displayed here, or in general about Special Collections please contact us.

About the author

Lisa Lillie is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at Washington University in St. Louis.