As part of a creative team led by 3D designers Curious Space, we were invited by the V&A to design the graphic elements for Opera: Passion, Power and Politics, the inaugural exhibition in the museum’s new 12,000 square foot Sainsbury gallery.
The exhibition explores the story of opera through the social and political context of seven significant premieres in seven different European cities, from its birth as a public art form in 17th century Venice to revolutionary Leningrad and concluding in a final section that examines how opera continues to evolve today.
The design scheme challenges the perception of opera as a rarified art form, taking an unconventional approach to express themes of political upheaval, gender politics and the making and unmaking of powerful dynasties.
Visitors enter through a curtain to a ‘backstage’ area, where they can wander among large scale theatrical flats and stage set tableaux, soundtracked by a responsive headphone experience. The graphic scheme places functional and informal elements in direct contrast to gilt-framed paintings and classical statues. A ‘graphic libretto’ wraps the whole space – a 5m wall of makeshift gaffer tape titling, engraved plastic signage and handwritten directors’ notes by lettering artist Alison Carmichael.