In The Frame
In The Frame
In The Frame

Curtain up: Opera takes centre stage in 2017

by The Art Newspaper  |  30 December 2016
Curtain up: Opera takes centre stage in 2017
The first public performance of Four Saints in Three Acts was held February, 1934 at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (courtesy: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art)

It’s not over until the fat lady sings—at least not in major UK museums and galleries next year when opera goes under the spotlight. The Victoria and Albert Museum is teaming up with the Royal Opera House for its inaugural show—Opera: Passion, Power and Politics (30 September-25 February 2018)—in the new Sainsbury Gallery, a major exhibition space at the heart of the museum’s long-awaited, new Exhibition Road building project which is due to open in July. “The exhibition will focus on seven opera premieres, seven opening nights in seven distinct cultural landscapes, which culminate in the international explosion of opera in the 20th and 21st century,” a press statement says. These include Venice (Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea, 1642) and London (Handel’s Rinaldo, 1711). Meanwhile, the Photographers’ Gallery in London will launch Four Saints in Three Acts next autumn (27 October-February 2018), focusing on the eponymous 1934 production which was the first opera staged on Broadway (but not many people know that the opera debuted at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Connecticut first). The production, composed by Virgil Thomson, also broke new ground with its all African-American cast. “[The opera] significantly influenced public perceptions of modernist experimentation, avant-garde art, and African-American involvement in white American culture,” the organisers say. The new exhibition will include top-notch portrait and documentary shots by photographers such as Lee Miller and George Platt Lynes. 

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