03 January 2018


Artisti all’Opera

Museo di Roma

– 11 March 2018



The Teatro dell’Opera di Roma has had a long tradition of collaborating with visual artists. In the artistic world of this theatre, where conductors work alongside musicians and costume designers, the Roman State Opera has employed visual artists for stage design and costumes from its very beginning. The exhibition at the Museo di Roma shines the spotlight on the history of the theatre and its pioneering collaborations with fine art.


Shortly after its construction between 1874 and 1880, the Teatro Constanzi (named after its builder), the theatre began to move in an innovative direction. Compared to the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, known for its romantic operas and the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, the oldest opera house still in use, the new Teatro Constanzi needed something to distinguish itself. With the world premiere of “Cavalleria rusticana” by Pietro Mascagni in 1890, the veristic opera was born, and also determined the theatre’s cultural identity. “Verismo” refers to a style in Italian opera that abandoned the classical theatrical conventions of the nineteenth century, about decorum and the Ständeklausel. Despite some big stylistic differences between different verismo operas, they are usually about people from the lower social orders, set in exotic or rural settings with a greater focus on realism and also have violent climaxes. What is more, the Teatro Constanzi also aspired to an international outlook and developing a close relationship with the fine arts.


In 1964, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma rewrote operatic history once again with its production of “Otello” by Gioachino Rossini. This was the first time a production had been completely designed by an artist – in this case Giorgio de Chirico. The opera’s colourful and surrealistic design, in particular its painted stage curtain, is showcased in the exhibition at the Museo di Roma. Other artists who have worked with the Roman State Opera include Pablo Picasso, Afro Basaldella, Alberto Burri, Arnaldo Pomodoro and most recently William Kentridge.

Carlo Fuortes, has been the director of the opera house since 2013. He has chosen to deliberately follow the traditional unity of opera and the fine arts at the Roman State Opera. The Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, which has been more or less forgotten in recent years, is to redeem itself from an era of monotony by reviving the practice of artistic collaboration. Owing to its history of innumerable past artistic collaborations, the theatre’s archive includes some 60.000 costumes, 11.000 drawings and a large collection of original works of art, many of which can be seen in the exhibition. The exhibition’s focus on such collaborations reflects the history of the opera house and also makes it possible to trace trends in 20th-century art.


Nº 281
Design and Archives

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