L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, December 6, 2019

Orpheus and the Lady - a "pop-up" for The Untold Gaze at the Portland Art Museum

Last month, Gigi and I participated in a "pop-up" at the Portland Art Museum as part of the Portland Book Festival (formerly Wordstock). Each year, the festival is a total riot of publishers and authors from all over the country - and often beyond - and a great crush of book lovers. It's always great fun. This go 'round, it was also a lovely way to celebrate the anniversary of the publication of our book, The Untold Gaze; its "pub date" came too late last year to be included in the festival, so we were very happy to be invited this year.

Each pop-up is presented in front of a particular painting or sculpture in the museum's collection, a work of art the organizers believe would make an apt pairing with the literary offering. Since it's always been one of my favorite pieces in the permanent collection, I asked for and was granted permission to perform in front of Boucher's Portrait of a Lady.

We had a really lovely turn-out for the event. Gigi gave a brief introduction to the book, then introduced writer and publisher of Forest Avenue Press, Laura Stanfill, who read her wonderful story from The Untold Gaze, "All This." Then, as the applause continued for Laura, our violinist, Tomoki Martens, came in from the next gallery and began the introduction to the French edition of Gluck's famous lament for Orpheus, "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice" from Orphée et Eurydice. Then I swept into the room and did what I did. I did it with a cold, no chance to warm up, and on only four hours of sleep - trying to finish the damn costume! - but I think I didn't really embarrass myself too much. Here's my part of the event:

(Video of the full event below.)


Poor innocents, they don't know what monster is on the horizon! (Actually, they're blocking my planned pathway; I had to make a loop around them.)
My costume was actually not quite finished. And I should have had panniers underneath. As a last minute effort to give the thing a
little more volume, I added a full petticoat but, since that added volume in the front as well, I looked just a bit... pregnant...!
We couldn't actually do our event in front of the Boucher as there was a display case in the way. The painting is just out of view on the left.


Portrait of a Lady, by François Boucher, circa 1760-70.

The aria I sang is contemporary with the painting; the opera debuted in 1762, the French edition debuted in 1774. And while my costume was roughly contemporary as well, it was really more influenced by Fragonard's fantasy portraits than by the Boucher. And then, it was really more designed to represent some sort of stage costume of the period.

Three of Fragonard's "fantasy portraits" with their anachronistic Medici collars, circa 1769.
Before I began: fifteen yards of not-quite-silk. The play of color and texture is wonderful; it shimmers. Sadly, the lighting in the gallery totally subdued that aspect.
My winged and wired lace collar in progress. Such an oddly shaped construction, it won't sit properly on any flat surface.
What are these...?
Turns out that they're sheets of printer paper, brushed with a little paint. Cut up, rolled, and glued, they formed the material for my wig.
Make-up test. I didn't get my mouth half so nice on the day of the actual performance.


Probably my favorite picture from the event; what can that poor child be thinking...?


And here's the video of the full event.


Photographs courtesy of Stephen Rutledge, Gigi Little, Laura Stanfill, Diane Prokop, video by Tracy Stepp - thank you, all!

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