Call for Papers/Presentations
Session: From Canvas to Stage: The Visual Artist and Opera Scenography
College Art Association Annual Conference, Chicago, Feb 12-15, 2020
Deadline for abstracts: July 23, 2019
Send abstracts to: canvastostage -at-

Co-chairs: Corrinne Chong, Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto) and Hannah Chan-Hartley, Independent musicologist 

Visual artist-opera collaborations such as Dalí’s Salome (Covent Garden, 1950), Chagall’s Magic Flute (Metropolitan Opera, 1967), David Hockney’s Turandot (Lyric Opera of Chicago, 1992), and William Kentridge’s Wozzeck (Salzburg Festival, 2017) attest to the enduring influence of Wagner’s ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk and, more generally, to the appeal that the musical stage has held—and continues to hold—for painters and sculptors since the start of the early modernist generation. This interdisciplinary panel examines the artist’s role as opera scenographer—one which involves the orchestration and manipulation of space, architectonic structures, costumes, props, lighting, and images; in short, the visual elements of the performance environment. Inevitably, the artist’s aesthetic language and subjective lens shape the scenographic realization of the operatic work. The outcome is an interpretation which can either complement or challenge the authorial intention, whether it be textual and/or musical. Furthermore, the artist’s scenographic vision can align with or disrupt spectators’ expectations of the production. These underlying tensions can provoke polarizing critical responses.

Papers might consider: the impact of “artist interventions” on the operatic stage and the various ways in which these have sought to stimulate and invigorate the existing repertory; an artist’s idiosyncratic reading of the original dramaturgical intentions for a particular work; the appropriation of art historical imagery in the scenic tableau; and the implications of the increased presence of visual artists in the field of opera scenography. This panel particularly welcomes papers that incorporate perspectives across the spectrum of visual culture, musicology, and theatre studies.


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