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Ausrine Stundyte as Cio-Cio-San, Elizabeth Janes as Butterfly’s child and Sarah Larsen as Suzuki in Seattle Opera's production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Photo by Elise Bakketun.
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Opera and Architecture: Building a Home for the Art Form in the Modern World
Philip Kennicott
Opera America Magazine

Architecture is the older art, perhaps as old as civilization, but opera and architecture share a common history, and common obsessions. Look at 17thcentury stage designs for the first operas, and it seems as if opera was born to create ideal residents for the buildings of Palladio, who died less than 20 years before Jacopo Peri’s Dafne helped inaugurate the new musical form. Opera, understood not as a new art but a revival of classical sung drama, naturally reflected the order and balance that prevailed in the built world. Even when librettists called for scenes set in the sylvan landscape of Arcadia, the trees were as orderly as rows of Corinthian columns. The sets Giocomo Torelli designed for an opera called Bellerofonte are typical: Pilasters and columns are seen in strong, single point perspective, down the center of the stage, no matter whether they’re made from stone or trees.

About the Author: Philip Kennicott is culture critic for The Washington Post.

Fall 2014 Magazine Issue
  • Are Women Different?
  • Preparing for Klinghoffer
  • Emerging Artists: Act One


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