NEW YORK, NY.-
In his exquisite new monograph Opera
(Damiani, June 1, 2015), American photographer David Leventi (b. 1978) takes us inside the hallowed interiors of more than 40 opera houses located in nineteen countries and built over four centuries on four continents. Shot with a large-format camera over a period of eight years, Leventi's meticulously composed photographs capture the allure, magic and wealth of architectural detail of the world's most famous opera houses, including La Scala, Milan; The Metropolitan Opera, New York; Palais Garnier, Paris; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Bolshoi Theater, Moscow; Swedish Royal Opera, Stockholm; La Fenice, Venice; Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg, as well as notable smaller venues. Leventi writes, "As the son of two architects, I experience an almost religious feeling walking into a grand space such as an opera house."
Opera features a foreword by the world-renowned tenor Plácido Domingo, an insightful essay by curator and author Marvin Heiferman, and historical overviews of each theater presented in the book by curator and writer Thomas Mellins. The book is designed by Pentagram's Luke Hayman. An accompanying exhibition of the work opens at Rick Wester Fine Art (526 West 26th Street, Suite 417, New York, NY 10001) on Thursday, May 7 with an artist reception from 6-8pm. The show will be remain on view until Friday, July 10.
Most of Leventi's photographs were taken center stage so we are seeing each space from the perspective of the opera singer. They are made before the performance starts, so the scenery, musicians, performers, and audience members are excluded from the picture. In each sumptuous image we are enveloped by the space in front of us as we take in its unique design -- some houses are lavish and ornate, others more simple. What emanates from every image in the book is a pulsating energy and sense of anticipation that something extraordinary is about to happen. Leventi writes, "The actual performance is just a part of the awe-inspiring experience of going to the theater -- I believe that the space itself can be the event."
In his essay, Marvin Heiferman writes "What distinguishes and complicates Leventi's images are the passion and order they celebrate, the synesthesia they summon up, and the questions about opera's continuity they raise. Ultimately, it is the photographer's firmly fixed perspective that encourages our eyes and minds to alight here and there, look this way and that, and to contemplate the legacy and power of opera through the lens of his own tour-de-force performance."
Leventi's personal history sheds light on the origins of Opera. His beloved grandfather, Anton Gutman, was a gifted cantor who trained after World War II with the famous Danish operatic tenor, Helge Rosvaenge. Gutman first met Rosvaenge while they were both interned in a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp where Gutman would perform for officers and detainees. The circumstances of Gutman's release and relocation to Israel after the war put a stop to his dreams of a life on the opera stage. Many years later he would travel to the United States, and Leventi recalls "I grew up listening to him sing while he walked around our living room." Leventi's photographs of these grand spaces in which his grandfather never got to perform are lovingly presented in this book as a remembrance and homage.
Leventi's Opera historically documents landmarks that stand as symbols of their nations' wealth and grandeur, their dedication to the promotion of the arts and to bringing communities together. These are halls that have resounded with the voices of the greatest performers throughout history and their distinctive design has served as the inspiration for composers, writers and artists alike.
David Leventi (b. 1978) grew up in Chappaqua, NY and Nantucket, MA. In 2001, he received his BFA in Photography from Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri. His photographs have been widely published in TIME, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, ESPN The Magazine, FT Weekend Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Esquire, among other publications. His branding/design work includes projects for Pentagram, Concrete Brand Imaging Group, The Howard Gilman Foundation, Knoll International and R 20th Century Design. In 2007, Leventi was selected by Photo District News as one of their Top 30 Emerging Photographers. His work has been included in the 2008 Communication Arts Photography Annual and in the 2008, 2012 and 2013 editions of American Photography. He is the recipient of two Graphis Gold awards, has been a two-time Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50 Finalist and was a participant at Review Santa Fe in 2010. Leventi has been a Guest Lecturer at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Drexel University in Philadelphia and the School of Visual Arts in New York. He is represented by Rick Wester Fine Art in New York, Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans, Bau-Xi Photo in Toronto, Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta and Galería Patricia Acal in Madrid.