Opera: Passion, Power and Politics is not so much exhibition but more of show. From the moment you put your Bowers and Wilkins headphones on you are immersed into the world of Opera. Lush music washes over you as you are read all about its beginnings in seventeenth century Venice. The city was in decline as new shipping routes took away her business, tourism was the way forward and Opera was the brand new way to draw in well heeled visitors.
Opera is the original multimedia entertainment. It has the lot. Music, voice, lavish sets, sumptuous costumes and great people watching from your theatre seat. Ingenious sets were one of the big draws to the new Venetian theatres. You turn a corner to find your self in the wings of a theatre stage, keep on walking and take a seat in front of a reconstruction Of a Rinaldo set. Sit and listen to Chorus of Mermaids and be transported back to seventeenth century Venice.
One of the problems of an exhibition about sound is that visual things can be a bit tricky. The V&A has got around this by the use of chalk board style graphics on the walls that lead you through the development of Opera by looking at seven different works.
Period instruments and clothes are on display for you to look at as the music washes over you. The V&A has mined its vast costume selection as well for period clothes.
Opera houses tend to be extravagantly opulent buildings. In the UK we don’t have that many but in Italy there are over 150 opera houses. Artist Matthais Schiller set about photographing them for this art work. It is huge, you sit there with Verdi’s Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco playing in your ears. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
Opera is one of those marmite things. You either love it or hate it. I think by now it is probably obvious that I love Opera, but even if you don’t it is well worth visiting Opera: Passion, Power and Politics to learn how what at first sight appears to be an art form of the establishment reflects the changes in the world around it.
OPERA: PASSION, POLITICS AND POWER need to know
- 30 September 2017 – 25 February 2018
- Victoria and Albert Museum, Exhibition Road, LondonSW7 2RL
- Open: Daily 10am – 5.45pm (Friday 10pm)
- Admission: Adults £19 concessions available
- Opera: Passion, Power and Politics is put on in conjunction with the Royal Opera House.