Nov 15, 2016

A Wee But Grand Opera

With pictures from Chris Sullivan's photo album "Seen @ L'Opéra"

From 1993 to 1998, David Beck devoted himself to the production of a single work, L'Opéra. In the sumptuous interior of an elaborate and lavish miniature opera house more than six feet long and four feet high, a performance of Aida is underway, watched by the casts of various other operas. As the curtain rises, torchères burst into flames, the orchestra strikes their tune, and the audience begins to sing along with the cast. To achieve this spectacle David Beck carved more than two hundred figures, animating them with an elaborate system of spindles, cogs, and motors concealed beneath the floor of his building. The project involved the use of a rich variety of materials including eight different woods, copper sheeting, lacquer, brass, satin moiré, gold leaf, gouache painting, eggshell, and marquetry. Packed with intricate detail, hilarious vignettes, and multiple illusions to the operatic repertoire, the sculpture is not only an inspired tribute to the art of opera, but a complex, brilliantly crafted, and highly imaginative work of art. (from "L'Opera", paperback published by the National Musuem of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.)

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What's more, the resplendent carved and gilded house, a blend of Chinese, Moorish, Victorian, Gothic and more arcane architectures, is only 6 feet by 6 1/2 feet by 4 feet. Wee it may be, but it's much grander than the Metropolitan (from Grace Glueck, New York Times review)

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(...) It took Mr. Beck five years to complete with its range of intricately embellished surfaces, its 207 hand-carved figures, nearly all animated, its wealth of incidents, like the viewers asleep in the boxes and the character from ''Turandot'' who sits in the audience with his severed head on his knee, the head still singing along with the crowd. (from Grace Glueck, New York Times review)

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Category: David Beck Artwork