Tormenti Amor; an Italian title that translates as 'torments of love', illustrates five female characters from five different operas; the Queen of the Night (Mozart's The Magic Flute), Madame Butterfly (Puccini), Alcina (Handel), Turandot (Puccini) and Rusalka (Dvorjak). These are all very different characters, with different stories; from geisha to princess, water nymph to enchantress. But as female characters in opera they all share one thing- a demise. Across every century of opera's existence, there has always been the necessity to sentence each woman of every story to a tragic end, and you needn't dig too deep to find her at the mercy of men in some way. In my series, each heroine is portrayed in a studio setting, her own stage if you like; and her inevitable demise and vulnerability is suggested through the constructed set that surrounds each character; tin foil stars hang by nylon thread for the Queen of the Night, Alcina's magic island is a fragile den of colourful plastic, the moon that Rusalka sings to desperately for her moral lover is made of nothing more than paper. As a prominent technique in opera's own productions, I also wanted to incorporate symbolism in my imagery through the partnering images with my portraits, for example, the foreshadowing of Madame Butterfly's suicide in the form of a pinned butterfly. Growing up the daughter of an opera singer, the soundtrack of my early tears was my mother's voice. It seemed the sound of our home, accepted not as some extravagance but an intimate domestic bond within our family. I was always captivated by this one photograph of my mother, taken during her biggest performance as the Queen of the Night in 1980's London. Wearing an ornately decorated, twinkling black velvet gown, fearsome yet beautiful crown of silver spires atop her head- this image became the catalyst that led to Tormenti Amor and a desire to capture imagery of a magical and theatrical nature, an aesthetic I have always loved. As stories which will not be familiar to all, I aimed not to summarise an entire plot or convey a visual representation of these opera's musical scores with complete accuracy to previous, authentic opera productions. Instead, inspired by the photo of my mother, I took elements from them; stories I found to be as enchanting as our famous childhood fairytales. Through single-handedly constructing my sets, consideration of styling and colour palette, this series aims to create a world of figures in settings which evoke a feeling of childhood make-believe and playing dress-up, harnessing their characters through my love of fashion photography. In keeping with my own practice, the portraits are accompanied by shots of landscape and still life, and narrated with fleeting aria translations. This series presents itself as both a handmade and self-published book.
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Handmade version (one-off exhibition piece)
30 × 30cm, 60 pages
printed on hahnemuhle duo, 276gsm
hand-stitched, bound & covered by the artist
Self-Published version (Blurb)
18 × 18cm, 66 pages