Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Patricia

Opera: Passion, Power and Politics at the V&A

Recommended Posts

I note ROH is working with the V&A on a major new exhibition exploring opera from its origins to present day. Do forum members better informed than myself know of anything similar for dance ever taking place? I recall the history of the Royal Ballet exhibition about seven years or so ago, but cannot call to mind anything else.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can remember going to an exhibition 'ROH 25 Years of Opera & Ballet' at the V&A in 1971.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There was a "Ballets Russes" exhibition in 2010 which featured costumes, designs and film clips, even account books and contracts.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2010/mar/29/v-a-ballets-russes-exhibition

 

Back in I think the 1980s there was a spectacular and more general exhibition of costumes including the Royal Ballet and the Ballets Russes. It was very atmospheric, they played extracts of the relevant music and spotlit the relevant costumes, with concealed wind machines making them move gently.  I have a feeling Richard Buckle was involved (as he was in their 1954 Diaghilev one, Google tells me).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I managed a only a half-hour visit so I'll be going back to take it all in properly, don't take what follows as authoritative. I'm not knowledgable on opera but the social/political history stuff I already knew so I didn't feel I got a lot out of it, and I go free so can't judge its value for the £19 entrance, but it looks and sounds good.
You get lovely leather Bowers and Wilkins headphones to wear and an audioplayer which matches the music to the exhibit you're standing near, so you can listen to as much of the extracts as time allows.
It traces the development of opera with emphasis on its place it wider society from Venice via
London (Handel, plus a mini stage with working scenery),
Vienna (Mozart, Beethoven, various artifacts, emphasis on revolutionary social changes),
Paris & late Romanticism (can only remember the loaned paintings),
Milan (Verdi, Italian nationalism, Violetta's white party dress from the ROH),
Dresden (R.Strauss, Salome, censorship, filmed extracts, those bringing children might prefer not to linger here),
Moscow (Shostakovich and Stalin, brush up your Russian to gain maximum benefit as much is untranslated),
then I realised I had to leave and skipped by the final contemporary world opera section, which seems to be filmed extracts.
There is a bit of seating but I saw one man carrying his own fold-up stool.  Lots of space though, so wheelchair users should be fine if it's not busy and the V&A can usually loan you one if you need it.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 20/10/2017 at 17:30, Grand Tier Left said:

I managed a only a half-hour visit so I'll be going back to take it all in properly, don't take what follows as authoritative. I'm not knowledgable on opera but the social/political history stuff I already knew so I didn't feel I got a lot out of it, and I go free so can't judge its value for the £19 entrance, but it looks and sounds good.
You get lovely leather Bowers and Wilkins headphones to wear and an audioplayer which matches the music to the exhibit you're standing near, so you can listen to as much of the extracts as time allows.
It traces the development of opera with emphasis on its place it wider society from Venice via
London (Handel, plus a mini stage with working scenery),
Vienna (Mozart, Beethoven, various artifacts, emphasis on revolutionary social changes),
Paris & late Romanticism (can only remember the loaned paintings),
Milan (Verdi, Italian nationalism, Violetta's white party dress from the ROH),
Dresden (R.Strauss, Salome, censorship, filmed extracts, those bringing children might prefer not to linger here),
Moscow (Shostakovich and Stalin, brush up your Russian to gain maximum benefit as much is untranslated),
then I realised I had to leave and skipped by the final contemporary world opera section, which seems to be filmed extracts.
There is a bit of seating but I saw one man carrying his own fold-up stool.  Lots of space though, so wheelchair users should be fine if it's not busy and the V&A can usually loan you one if you need it.

 

 

 

The white Traviata dress isn’t *in* the Milan section, though. It’s at the other side of the Paris section. Which meant I went from having been listening to “Va, pensiero”, walked towards the dress expecting to hear more Verdi, and was rudely snapped straight into listening to Tannhäuser.

 

I’m afraid the constant snapping from one piece of music to the next, with no option to control the switch oneself, made it a hugely frustrating experience for me. Just trying to stand still enough for it not to whip me straight from one piece of music to a completely different one against my will...

 

And as for the “let’s interrupt you listening to Shostakovich with a massive great sound-and-light reminder of the influence of Stalin” thing, I didn’t appreciate that either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh dear, I'd assumed that the jumpiness of the soundtrack was due to my brisk, time-constrained progress round the exhibition. 

I guess they're targeting a new audience to opera, perhaps hoping to pick up those first lured to the V&A by David Bowie and Pink Floyd - which is not such a bad thing overall, just a pity if it alienates the more informed. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I went on Saturday, before seeing Alice, glad someone else had problems with the headphones, I hate them but was told "all you have to do is press start as you enter the exhibition", that wasn't true, as usual I had problems, besides which I can't really listen to music and concentrate on texts and looking at exhibits, so I gave up, felt much more relaxed anyway. It is probably more enjoyable if you know more than me about opera,  but it is very well presented and theatrical,  loved all the costumes, the Venetian glass at the beginning, the London stage set (think I got the right music for that), Mozart's piano, lots of interesting maps of the cities too,  has made me want to know more about the history of opera.

 

Once you get underground you have no idea of space, it didn't seem as big as I though it would be, but the staircases up and down are very interesting modern architecture.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×