Session: From Canvas to Stage: The visual artist as opera scenographer ( )
Association for Art History annual conference, Birmingham, April 14-17, 2021
Deadline for abstracts: October 19, 2020

Co-convenors: Hannah Chan-Hartley, independent musicologist (Toronto,
Canada), and Corrinne Chong (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada)

Since the start of the early modernist period, there has been a
longstanding tradition of artist–opera collaborations. Dalí’s Salome
(Covent Garden, 1950), David Hockney’s Turandot (Lyric Opera of Chicago,
1992) and William Kentridge’s Wozzeck (Salzburg Festival, 2017) are a few
examples that attest to the enduring legacy of Wagner’s ideal of the
Gesamtkunstwerk and, more generally, to the appeal that the musical stage
continues to hold for painters and sculptors today. This interdisciplinary
session examines the artist’s role as opera scenographer – one which
involves the orchestration and manipulation of space, architectonic
structures, costumes, lighting and images; in short, the visual elements of
the performance environment. Inevitably, the artist’s aesthetic language
and subjective lens shape the scenographic realisation 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.
Moreover, the artist’s scenographic vision can align with or disrupt the
spectator’s expectations of the production. These underlying tensions can
provoke polarising critical responses which merit further investigation in
the scholarship.

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; the artist’s idiosyncratic reading and
the libretto’s dramaturgical impetus; the appropriation of art-historical
imagery in the scenic tableau; and the implications of the increasingly
prevalent crossover of contemporary visual artists into the sphere of opera
scenography. This panel particularly welcomes papers that incorporate
perspectives across the spectrum of visual culture, musicology and theatre
studies. Artist-scenographers can be drawn from any historical time period.

Send abstracts to: canvasstage -at- via this form 


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