Kathleen O'Connell

They just don't make 'em like the Palais Garnier anymore ...

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Via Slate magazine's "Behold: A Photo Blog": check out photographer David Leventi's portfolio of gorgeous, large-format photos of renowned opera houses taken from center stage. From his Artist's Statement:

I have photographed each house systematically from the spot at center stage where a performer would stand. ... Lit solely by the existing chandeliers and lamps, each opera house has been composed with the first row of seats acting as a base at the bottom of the frame to just above where the chandelier meets the ceiling at the top, everything is in focus from the front to the back of the house. The upper balcony is anchored to the top corners of the frame as much as possible while the ends of the rows of orchestra seats anchor the bottom corners. Though the proportion of the spaces varies, the goal is to attain both lateral and vertical symmetry in each image, thus flattening out the space in perfect equilibrium. The resulting view is an impossible one for the naked eye, but the camera allows both line-of-sight and periphery to come together in a single frame. This gives the effect – when one stands in front of the mural-sized prints – of being surrounded by the space.

In addition to the Palais Garnier, there are photos of the Bolshoi, the Mariinsky, Teatro Colón, Covent Garden, La Scala, La Fenice, the Met, and many, many more -- each more glorious than the last. (Except for the Met, which looks utterly garish except for its pretty chandeliers, and Toronto's Four Seasons Center, which somehow contrives to be both shiny and earth-toned, and non-descript.)

Leventi's portfolio also includes similarly scaled photos of prisons, Romania, and New York City. His New York photos especially remind me of the natural light, large-format work photographer Jan Staller did for his wonderful book "Frontier New York."

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Thank you so much, Kathleen!

I'd never heard of the Amargosa Opera House, Death Valley Junction. What a surprise to find it at the end of a series of photos of the great European opera houses.

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I'd never heard of the Amargosa Opera House, Death Valley Junction. What a surprise to find it at the end of a series of photos of the great European opera houses.

The Amargosa Opera House is where dancer Marta Becket gave ballet performances for many years. She painted the murals herself. (For some performances no audience showed up, so she painted one!)

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I read an interview with her many years ago -- she had that kind of single-focused intensity that would keep someone working even in the middle of the desert, even if no one came to see.

Thanks so much for the link to the slide show. These are astonishing images!

If you have time, look at the prison series -- remarkably similar.

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Marta Becket and the Amargosa Opera House were the subject of a 1999 award-winning documentary entitled "Amargosa." You can rent it for $0.99 on YouTube or $3.99 on Amazon Instant Video. It's available through iTunes as well, but only for purchase.

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Loved the pictures, I want to tour all the Italian Opera Houses one day.

Two omissions though: London's Coliseum - much more attractive interior than Covent Garden, and the lovely front curtain of cherubs and Acropolis in Copenhagen.

When it is finished the Royal Theatre in Marrakech will be really something, with the most unique stage I've ever seen: conventional proscenium setting at front and to the rear the same stage becomes part of an open air amphitheatre set in a garden of roses and orange trees. I've always felt that a suitable performance for the eventual inauguration would be the RDB's Abdullah.

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Fabulous. Wonderful to see the opera house in Bucharest again; it has the most amazing series of historial frescos on the walls that encircles the audience.

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