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5 Times Opera And Art Merged
Because we all love a bit of drama
Art Bazar 17 Sep 2020

Artists have often collaborated with other artists, and at times dabbled in different art forms too. When news broke of Marina Abramović’s operatic debut broke last month, we knew we had to do some more digging and we found that actually there are many examples of visual artists working within the dramatic arts. So, without further ado, here are 5 times that opera and art merged!

Marina Abramović

Everyone loves Marina Abramović. And, the seminal performance artist has become even more performative! Her opera 7 Deaths of Maria Callas was recently staged at Munich’s Bavarian State Opera House, with costumes designed by Burbery (of, couse!). Marina’s opera was inspired by the turbulent relationship between opera singer Maria Callas and shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. The opera reenacts the deaths from seven operas, the seven deaths that Maria died (while she sang) before Marina, with Maria ultimately dying from a broken heart. But don’t let that make you feel sad, because Marina has affirmed that this opera is all about female empowerment. The opera is available to be streamed until October 7 and a book is expected to be released on September 24.

Ai WeiWei

Ai WeiWei was set to direct Turandot at the Teatro dell’Oprea in Rome this year, but it has come to a halt due to a certain pandemic. That said, it is hoped that it will take place in March 2021. The story – based on Persian texts – is about a Chinese princess who will only agree to marry someone who can answer three riddles. Having initially been asked to design the set, Ai proposed that he direct too. His opera is expected to include references to both his own art and the Covid-19 pandemic and is bound to be a huge success. 

Tosca

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Poet Gabriele D'Annunzio dedicated her a copy of his novel "il Piacere" (the Pleasure) and described her as "a Venus on Earth". Davide Campari used her as an excuse to leave on his business trips. Gina Lollobrigida played her character in the movie "The most beautiful woman in the world", in 1955, winning the Donatello David as best actress. And when Piero Fornasetti saw her face in a late 19th century magazine, he fell in love with her enigmatic look. Since then he made screenprint of her face on every ceramic he produced. The most beautiful woman of the 20th century, Lina Cavalieri. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ Her career as a songwriter was constantly on the rise, thanks to her voice, her beauty and, of course, her bad temperament. At the age of 21, she performed at the Salone Margherita in Naples (the first concert café in Italy), her performances there lauched her in Europe. Lina arrived in Paris, at the Folies Bérgères, singing a series of Neapolitan songs accompanied by a totally female orchestra, composed only of guitars and mandolins. In 1900 she was at the height of her popularity and turned into an opera singer, debuting at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples with an opera by Puccini. The Belle Epoque became fascinated by her beauty and her charme, despite her modest origins. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #ginalollobrigida #opera #singer #puccini #tosca #theatre #reggiadicaserta #beauty #beautyqueen #belleepoque #linacavalieri #muse #iconic #fornasetti #cinema #moviestar #icon #vintage #50s #fashion #primadonna #songwriter #charme

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So, Puccini (the composer of Tosca) does not necessarily collaborate with an artist, but Floria Tosca’s lover – Mario Cavaradossi – is a painter. His model just so happens to be the sister of a political prisoner, and as a blonde, is the complete opposite of the opera’s dark-haired heroine, Tosca. In fact, this painter – an original art boy – of Tosca’s, is a principle part of the opera, helping the previously-mentioned political prisoner to flee. Because of his associations with the prisoner, Cavaradossi lands himself in danger, which is not helped by Tosca’s jealousy of the blonde model. But, true passion always rules, with Tosca ultimately helping Cavaradossi to escape. The pair hatch a plan for Cavaradossi to stage his own death but unfortunately, it backfires, and Cavaradossi really does die. Heartbroken, Tosca then hurls herself towards her own end in a passionate display of heartbreak. It just goes to show that the love-affairs between artists – musicians and painters alike – have been full of drama for centuries. 

Shirin Neshat

In 2017 Shirin Neshat directed Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida at the Salzburg Festival. For her version, Shirin reconsidered the representations of Egyptians and Ethiopians within the classic opera, which she believed had been barbarically depicted, instead depicting them in a more favourable light. In terms of staging, she was inspired by minimalism and Egyptian architecture, while also including video. We just wish we could have been there!

Leonardo Da Vinci  

OK, so this one technically isn’t an opera, and it hasn’t even taken place yet, but we can’t help but be a little excited anyway. The art world was all a-gasp when Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi sold for millions of dollars, so I guess it seems to make the perfect story for a spectacle full of drama. Salvator Mundi The Musical is expected to hit Broadway in 2022 and we can’t wait! So, just to re-cap: the painting was assumed to be lost for hundreds of years before being rediscovered in the 20th century. At the time of its rediscovery however, its authenticity was in doubt and it sold in 2005 for less than $10,000. One decade later in 2017, several experts started to accept that the painting was by Leonardo’s hand (although there are still numerous doubters), and the painting was resold for over $450 million, reportedly to a Saudi prince. Further still, it has not been seen since, despite it being due to appear at the Louvre in Abu Dhabi. It is believed that the painting is currently being on the private yacht of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. Who knows where it will be seen next, but what we can confirm is that this is an artwork that commands drama and we can’t wait for it to get its debut on stage!

Text Lizzy Vartanian

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