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1.2.05

Photographs of Four Saints

In 1934, a group called The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music produced Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein's strange opera Four Saints in Three Acts at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn. The cast consisted entirely of African-American singers, a year before Gershwin produced his Porgy and Bess in the same way. Here are two interesting reviews of those first performances:

The production was choreographed by Frederick Ashton and directed by the painter Maurice Grosser, who was Thomson's partner. Now Charlotte Higgins, in an article (War photographer's 1933 portraits from all-black opera unveiled, January 31) in The Guardian, says that there are some photographs of that production that will go on exhibit in London in February.
A pair of portraits by Lee Miller - the brilliant photographer who was the lover-muse of surrealist painter Man Ray and was famously pictured in Hitler's bath in 1945 - is to be shown for the first time. The portraits, taken in New York in 1933, show opera singers Bruce Howard and Edward Matthews as saints Teresa and Ignatius, in character for the opera Four Saints in Three Acts by the American composer Virgil Thomson. The pictures, which will go on show at the National Portrait Gallery in February, were taken shortly before the work was premiered in Connecticut.
The exhibit, Lee Miller: Portraits, will be at the National Portrait Gallery, in London, from February 3 until May 30. It will contain some 120 black-and-white photographs by Lee Miller. I hope the NPG makes a lot of images available online. For now, you can check out this gallery of Lee Miller photographs from The Guardian; the Lee Miller Archive, which has its own extensive gallery; and the exhibit Surrealist Muse: Lee Miller, Roland Penrose, and Man Ray (at the Getty Museum in 2003).

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