I didn’t think I would like it, but I’d give it a try once.
So back in the late 1900s I saw there was a performance of The Marriage of Figaro performed by marionettes. Thinking, ‘yeah, I like marionettes, I’ll give marionette opera a try. There’s subtitles, it’ll be fine’.
Imagine, if you will, wooden people bouncing around on strings singing “Figaro, Fig-a-ro, FIG-aroooooo”, with their only emotional expression coming from how high or low their skinny arms are pulled.
“La,” wooden hand up, “lalalalalala“, wooden hand down, “LA“, wooden hand waving in flourish, “laaaaaaaaa“.
Since my Italian grandfather loved opera and his sister sang opera, I wanted to give it a fair chance. Fortunately, I caught a modern adaptation of Don Giovanni with subtitles on PBS and LOVED it. Later on I even saw a live production of Cosi Fan Tutti in Boston with real human beings in it and enjoyed that as well, if only cuz of it’s “Three’s Company” farcical style plot.
I wish my grandfather and his sister were around to see our Cambridge Symphony Orchestra production of Tosca on Sunday March 16.
So, the poster… what the heck do I do?
I was stumped at the enormity of the task as I knew how excited everyone is to get this right. I was frozen trying to come up with imagery that will dignify the event.
I started with doodles in my engineering notebook during a meeting.
I doodled up a dagger with a hilt that looked like a violin sound hole. Thought, hey cool, and was on my way. I spent the weekend in my art space in my basement with India inks, acrylic paint, tissue paper, and cut paper. Spent some time figuring out how to draw an art nouveau font, and came up with this.
And then, thinking the concert will be in springtime I decided to make the red pop by putting it on an aqua background.
All the while I’m working on the clever dagger idea this is sitting on the easel behind me.
In 2012 I’d taken Flora Bowley’s ecourse to get back into painting, which I hadn’t done at any length since I was a teenager. Her approach has you just painting a bunch of gobbledy-gook with fluid acrylics, honing and fixing, until you work it up into something truly unique… as you had no idea what you were going to paint when you started. She wants you to have messy underpaintings.
This is the underpainting for what became the final Tosca poster.
Embarrassing, a bit, to show it here, but I wanted to show that I was going for an angry red busy unsettling vibe when I painted it.
Then, in the ecourse, Flora suggests going big and bold, draw a big image, make a big change, be unexpected. I painted a big face over the angry red background, I wanted a pretty face, but where you could still see the messy disturbed underpainting in the eyes.
And there she sat for months, in my basement, I didn’t know where to take it.
With this painting behind me and the cheery dagger painting in front of me I rented a Tosca DVD and figured I’d let the story percolate so I would have a better clue of how to make this right.
Here’s the TL;DR of Tosca: Tosca has a painter boyfriend, she’s jealous, she’s pretty, creepy guys are into her, and she would kill a man if she had to.
And her name is Floria. Floria, come stai?
Now I knew what to do with the painting.
Come to the concert… find out what happens to her.