The Intersection of Visual and Operatic Art

Mar 8, 2013

The Jun Kaneko-designed production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute played to sold out houses in San Francisco and Omaha. Patrons marveled at the artistic presentation. At intermission and after the performance, audience members praised the costumes and the visual masterpiece created by not only the scenic art work, but the combination of staging, costumes, wigs, and makeup in concert with the background imagery. This co-production involving an internationally known visual artist and multiple opera companies is heralded as a magnificent achievement. The Kaneko-designed production of The Magic Flute is all of those things, but the spirit of cooperation and partnership between artistic communities is not new.

Collaboration between the visual arts community and producers of opera is a standard feature of opera performance. Opera is comprised of multiple art forms. A fully staged opera production includes visual art in the form of set pieces and paintings, costumes, props, lighting, and staging. The performers are required to be fantastic singers and proficient actors. The element of drama or comedy within the libretto must be portrayed along with the, sometimes astonishing, vocal feats required by the musical score.

Historically, to meet the scenic demands of the stage, professional artists (usually painters) were employed by opera and theater companies. As available technology evolves, so do the artistic possibilities. The changing world of visual art, and that of opera, presents new opportunities for cooperation between the art forms.

In 2006, Opera Omaha partnered with Kaneko to design the set, props, and costumes for Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. In 2008, visual artist Catherine Ferguson worked with Opera Omaha to create a dramatic and brilliantly colorful production of Verdi’s Aida. The photo below beautifully illustrates Ferguson’s vision for what the audience would see on the stage. The picture is created through the use of set pieces, costumes, and props that complete the stunning visual image.

For Opera Omaha’s final performances of the 2012-2013 season, we partner with scenic designer Julia Noulin-Merat to create a new production of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. When you attend the opera, you will see the artist’s vision as it complements the incomparable singing of Samuel Ramey and Kara Shay Thomson. The artistic elements will, as always, be used to illustrate the story and to create a visual and auditory masterpiece to enhance the audience experience.

Tickets for our April 19 and 21, 2013 performances of Bluebeard’s Castle are available online or by calling 402-345-0606. Don’t miss your chance to see the intersection of visual and operatic art at its finest. We look forward to seeing you there!

If you’re interested in learning more about Bluebeard’s Castle and the use of visual art in opera production, Friends of Art at the University of Nebraska at Omaha is hosting an event on Sunday, March 10 to explore these topics. Hal France, our conductor for Bluebeard’s Castle, is the featured speaker. The event begins at 6:00pm with a wine and appetizer reception following the talk. Admission is $20, free to UNO students with MAV cards, or $3 to students with student I.D.s. Contact information and more is available on the organization’s Facebook page.

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