Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sketching Bohème


Last night we saw Puccini's La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera. We had the privilege of sitting in the front row, with an unobstructed view into the orchestra pit. I sketched bass clarinetist James Ognibene mainly during the scene changes and intermission.

During the show itself there was so much to look at in Zeffirelli's magnificent staging that I couldn't tear my eyes away from the sets, with the cast of 240 extras, plus a donkey and a horse, in the streets of Paris during Act 2. Plus it was too dark on my sketchbook page to see much of what I was doing. 
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But during Act 3 there was enough spill light from the stage to jot down quick silhouettes of Mimi, as performed by Romanian soprano Anita Hartig. 

The portrait of the cellist at the lower right was sketched in extremely dim light, so that I couldn't make out any details. I could only state basic planes of light and shadow, using water-soluble colored pencils and two water brushes, one filled with water, and the other with fountain pen ink.

9 comments:

Matthew Kalamidas said...

That particular production exhibits great visual control. I love the way palette, contrasts and dramatic lighting dictate where we, as the audience look.

That snow scene made an enormous impression on me the first time I saw it (almost 20 years ago). The subtle shapes emerging from the illusion of mist and atmosphere. I believed it so much, I actually felt cold. I just saw again this past Saturday and surprisingly, it wasn't the snow scene which impressed me. It was the 2nd Act with the 250+ people on stage. That part where they all freeze so we can focus on Musetta was brilliant!

Great sketches. I've given up trying to do anything there.

Blake Downing said...
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James Gurney said...

Matthew, yes, the light and atmosphere of the sets blew us away, too. I had seen some printed color reproductions of the sets, and the colors were more contrasty and saturated than they actually appeared. The warms and cools were amazingly saturated.

I wish I could have seen Zeffirelli's Tosca before they replaced it with the modern version.

Matthew Kalamidas said...

So do I! I recommend Aida (which has similar 250+ people on stage and animals) and Turandot which, for me, was visually arresting. The sets are so intricate that the intermission/set-change takes about an hour! I don't think they are part of this year's schedule but, put them on your list!

Prasad Shetty said...

I thoroughly enjoy your site and your blog and find it brightens my day.. Well as art should.. https://www.facebook.com/shetty.diksha/photos_albums contains some of the works done by my niece. I was wondering if you could comment on that.

Tom Hart said...
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Tom Hart said...

Opera is one of those artforms that I always have wanted to get into, but haven't been successful at - with the exception of some arias. I really appreciate the exposure that you're giving to opera here, and it makes me realize that there's a HUGE visual element to opera that I've missed. I'm imagine that much if not most of that was lost in translation to the small screen (thinking about some of the PBS broadcasts that I've sampled, but not hung with for very long).

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Rochelle Krause said...

I'm going to see this production this weekend. I've never seen La Boheme and am looking forward to it. I usually sit in the rear orchestra where it's impossible to draw due to the darkness. Instead, I try to memorize the staging and some poses, then jot them down during intermission.