Art Plus Opera

Thursday 15 March 2012

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Art and Opera joined forces at Swarovski Whitechapel Gallery Art Plus Opera on Thursday 15 March.

The Whitechapel Gallery’s Art Plus Party is a unique event, which explores the dynamic fusion of the visual arts with other cultural forms including drama, dance, film or music - culminating each year in a one-night only, unforgettable party and performance event; a celebration of creativity. 

Whitechapel Director, Iwona Blazwick OBE, with Member of Swarovski¹s Executive Board Nadja Swarovski, Art Plus Chair Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst, and a committee of leading figures from the arts, fashion, film and music worlds, invited guests to an extraordinary evening of opera, art and music to raise vital funds for the Gallery’s Education Programme.

A beautiful 1920s inspired invitation enticed guests through the Gallery’s doors, where they were transported back in time - the main event space was transformed into a stunning art deco ballroom, featuring a flotilla of Swarovski chandeliers as the centrepiece of the room, and a crystal beaded curtain, the sparkling backdrop to the performance stage and magnificent Steinway grand piano.

Leading contemporary artists created exquisite opera posters to adorn the walls in the tradition of classic libretto posters designed by Picasso, Cocteau and others that accompanied Diaghilev’s ballet and opera productions a century ago. The contemporary  artists included Phillip Allen, Michael Craig Martin, Sir Howard Hodgkin, Robert Holyhead, Janice Kerbel and Lisa Milroy.

The evening kicked off to a roaring start with the Art Plus Auction, run by Sotheby’s Oliver Barker, with artworks by: Phillip Allen, Darren Almond, Tord Boontje, Vija Celmins, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Michael Craig-Martin, Martin Creed, Mona Hatoum, Sir Howard Hodgkin, Robert Holyhead, Cristina Iglesias, Alan Kane, Janice Kerbel, Gabriel Kuri, Lisa Milroy, Gabriel Orozco, Simon Starling and Franz West.

Followed by the performance, presenting a first-time collaboration between the Whitechapel Gallery and The Royal Opera House. Eighteen members of the Royal Opera Chorus performed with Renato Balsadonna, Chorus Director and piano, with staging by acclaimed opera director Alessandro Talevi. Performers posed as fellow guests before launching into song to the delight of the surprised audience.

The repertoire included scenes from art themed operas, including Puccini’s La bohème with the artist Marcello in his Paris garret in the 1890s, the ‘Vissi d’arte’ and ‘Recondita Armonia’ scenes from Tosca by Puccini, and Brindisi, Act I from La traviata by Verdi. Inspired by the artist William Hogarth’s 18th century masterpiece,  The Auction Scene from The Rake’s Progress by Stravinsky was a particular highlight with our very own Whitechapel Gallery Director, Iwona Blazwick becoming the last ‘work’ to be sold!

The performances were followed by dancing and DJs until the early hours - in The Ballroom, The Art Plus Lounge and The Momo Club, including special sets by Dan Lywood, Momo Club DJs, Penny Fathers DJs, Seamus Hayes, Paul Sethi and Simon Crabb.

Throughout the night guests enjoyed Wright Brothers oysters, Laytons bubbly, Firefly Tonics, Peroni beer and vintage cocktails from 69 Colebrooke Row and Courvoisier. An Italian menu was created by Angela Hartnett with Smart Hospitality including truffle arancini, salt cod crème on bruschetta, and sticky lamb tartlet with cauliflower puree canapés. Bowl and central counter dishes including deli boards of charcuterie, olives & breads, escabeche of sea bass and pea, mint and ricotta tortellini, plus dessert of chocolate and peanut mille feuille and red fruit jellies. 

The support of sponsors, ticket sales and the proceeds of the auction in aid of the Whitechapel Gallery’s Education Programme works with thousands of children and diverse community groups each year, helping us support the next generation of artists.