By Lucy Gilmour, via blogs.wsj.com
Photographer David Leventi’s new monograph, ‘Opera’ (Damiani) is the sum of many parts. “As the son of two architects, I experience an almost religious feeling walking into a grand space such as an opera house” writes Mr. Leventi, an architectural photographer who, over the course of eight years photographed the interiors of more than 40 opera houses around the world. The meticulous, crystalline photographs taken with a large-format camera document the often ornate interiors that stand as symbols of their countries’ wealth, grandeur and musical legacies. But for Mr. Leventi there is another attraction – and one with ties closer to home. “I remember going to see Prokofiev’s ‘War and Peace’ with my grandma at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. Everything onstage looked like a grand history painting you would find at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it was alive. It was a spectacle,” he recalls. And his grandfather, Anton Gutman, was a gifted cantor who met (and later trained with) famous Danish operatic tenor Helge Rosvaenge whilst both were interned in a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp. Mr. Leventi grew up “listening to him sing while he walked around our living room”. In the introduction to ‘Opera’ Marvin Heiferman writes that “the opera houses Leventi has so dutifully researched, traveled to, and lovingly photographed are, as he describes them, “the spaces in which my grandfather, Anton Gutman, never got the chance to perform.”
The vantage point that the photographer returns to again and again in this series is from center stage – the viewpoint of the performer looking outwards to a silent symmetrical space. “I believe that the space itself can be the event,” he says. There is a very precise viewpoint yet the images resonate with beauty, power and a sense of anticipation, adding to the weight of the history of each of these great opera houses. Mr. Leventi worked for many years with noted photographer Robert Polidori. “I was his assistant and he my mentor” he says. “I came to appreciate the different type of beauty exhibited by large-format photography, one of immersion, the ability to print photographs so large and clear that they make you feel as if you are enveloped in and existing within a space”. He pauses. “Do buildings have souls?”
David Leventi: Opera photographs will be displayed at Rick Wester Fine Art Gallery in New York from May 7 through July 10.