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Centre Pompidou-Metz opens an exhibition devoted to opera
Oskar Kokoschka, La Flûte enchantée, dessin préparatoire pour les murs du temple, partie centrale (lune et tête de Janus).

METZ.- Opera as the World witnesses the encounter between the visual arts and opera in the 20th and 21st centuries. Beyond the straightforward presentation of opera sets created by artists, the exhibition aims to shed new light on the resonance, and tensions, between opera and the Wagnerian legacy of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total artform”), exploring how the visual arts and lyric theatre have enriched one another and, at times, become sources of mutual, radical influence and inspiration. In this two-way relationship, opera is a fertile ground for experiment and the fomenting of new aesthetic and political sensibilities.

In the context of the contemporary art scene, an exhibition devoted to opera is meaningful in more ways than one. We have moved beyond the myth of “the last opera”. In 1967, Pierre Boulez’s call to “blow opera houses up” resounded like an irrevocable verdict and death sentence, yet we know now that throughout the second half of the 20th century, opera produced a remarkable, important body of new work. The genre’s much criticized “spectacularization” had widespread impact on other artistic spheres. Opera-as-spectacle prompts further exploration of this theatrical sensibility and its innervating influence on contemporary art, after years of more conceptual forms.

Through set designs and costumes, scenographic elements, large-scale installations and new works, Opera as the World combines sound and vision to showcase opera’s role as both a workshop for shared artistic aims and aspirations, and the embodiment of creative freedom. The exhibition charts alternative territory in our exploration of interdisciplinarity in art, from the experimental sets of early avant-garde productions such as Arnold Schoenberg’s Die glückliche Hand (“The Hand of Fate”, 1910-13), to scores that have become latterday repertory classics, such as Olivier Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise, and more experimental, uber-iconic works such as Philip Glass and Bob Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach (1976).

Focussing on selected works representing the fertile links between visual artists and the stage, the exhibition is organised into thematic sections, from “painting in motion” to political, sometimes utopian productions, radical forms and new settings for opera, and the magic, sound and fury of the great myths. Classics such as The Magic Flute and Norma are also featured, highlighting how bold, innovative approaches can transform the established repertoire into a space for transgression and transformation, while ensuring a sense of continuity.

The exhibition also addresses its own ability, if not to recreate, then at least to evoke the sensory power and enchantment of opera. A number of past productions are “revived” alongside specially-commissioned work from contemporary artists, demonstrating the passion the medium of opera continues to inspire, and offering visitors an immersive encounter with its unique magic.

Extending the reflection on the chosen affinities between the show and visual arts - supported by previous projects among which Musicircus or Oskar Schlemmer. The Dancing Artist, Opera as the World exhibition questions the theatricality that innervates the disciplines of modern and contemporary art, with a resonance all the stronger that the exhibition is part of the Opéra national de Paris 350th anniversary, platform of innovative artistic intentions - those of Bill Viola, Romeo Castellucci or Clément Cogitore, to name but a few.

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