Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Wainwright, opera and a touch of maths

George Zipf, academic at Harvard University noticed a striking pattern in which if you rank the population sizes of cities, the largest city is always twice as big as the second largest city and three times the size of the third largest city. In other words, the population of a city is inversely proportional to its rank. But by extrapolation can this idea be used to measure the importance of art in cities in the UK?

Manchester demonstrated its importance in the UK arts world when Rufus Wainwright's first opera 'Prima Donna' premiered at the Palace Theatre in July. The Manchester Festival in partnership with Opera North funded the production which was directed by Daniel Kramer as part of the Manchester International Festival. Wainwright who arrived at the premiere supporting a black top hat, white silk scarf and beard had lost previous financial support for choosing to write the opera in French. The opera is based on the tragic story of a former opera singer who is forced to confront her demons before returning to the stage. Critics have described the production as 'stylistically eclectic' in part due to Wainwright's roots in folk and pop. However, criticisms of the production have highlighted its 'overt melodrama' which falls shorts of its promise as the story unfolds. Despite the criticisms, I was truelly inspired that cultural bodies in Manchester had developed a project as unorthodox as this. I believe it's the city's fresh and edgy context which has allowed the production breathing space from the stuffy confines of the operatic tradition.

However, this begs the question: what is appropriate attire for avant garde opera? The designer Sophie Gittins encorporates plush velvets, suedes and silk organza. In the example above, the London College of Fashion graduate has used shredded silk creating a shoe with striking elegance for her Autumn/Winter 2009 range. Although not a typical choice for this blog, I'm fascinated by the simplicity and ethereal quality of Gittin's designs. My only regret is that unlike Gittin's designs which will be on sale in boutiques this season, I've missed the opportunity to see 'Prima Donna' in this dynamic context.

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