NEW YORK.- The Sopranos, an exhibition of eight portraits by the renowned artist Francesco Clemente, just opened at Gallery Met. The exhibition, created in collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera, features portraits of eight divas who figure prominently in the Met's 2008-09 season: Diana Damrau, Natalie Dessay, Renée Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu, Susan Graham, Karita Mattila, Anna Netrebko, and Deborah Voigt. Clemente's paintings, done within a four-month period, portray them as characters in their upcoming roles. "It's almost a theatrical setting," the artist says of the stage-like platform and stairway he set up in his New York studio. "We climb onto a kind of stage and work suspended up in the air
It seemed a natural movement for these opera stars to climb up to a higher level than everybody else." To paint Netrebko, Clemente flew to Paris in early June, where she was performing in "I Capuleti e i Montecchi". The oil on linen portraits will be displayed until September 26.
An important figure in the contemporary art world, Clemente began his association with the Met and Gallery Met when he created the front-of-house banner for the Philip Glass opera, Satyagraha, which opened in April 2008. With work that combines both surrealism and expressionism, Clemente has made a place for himself as one of the most celebrated artists today; his work has been exhibited in leading museums around the world. In 1999, the Guggenheim Museum organized a major retrospective of his work, following earlier shows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and the Sezon Museum in Tokyo. Clemente divides his time between New York City, Rome, and Madras, India.
The exhibition was conceived and organized by Gallery Met director Dodie Kazanjian. Inspired by the divas currently engaged at the Met, as well as by Clemente's distinctive talent for portraiture, Ms. Kazanjian invited the artist to make the unique set of paintings. "When else in the history of opera, have eight leading opera singers of the day had their portraits painted by a single leading artist?", she asks.
Gallery Met is free and open to the public seven days a week. The hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on performance days (closing at 6 p.m. on non-performance days) and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.metopera.org. Gallery Met will be closed from July 15 through September 15 due to Lincoln Center reconstruction and will reopen on September 16.