Aliza Nisenbaum

This season’s exhibit, curated by Gallery Met director Dodie Kazanjian, features four new paintings by Aliza Nisenbaum: portraits of Nadine Sierra, Ermonela Jaho, and Angel Blue, who were, at the time, each performing the lead character of Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, are installed on the Grand Tier and a diptych is installed on the Dress Circle depicting the unseen world behind the stage: props, costumes, tools, and the multitude of people including the stage crews, set designers, makeup artists, and conductors who make a production possible.

Nisenbaum’s practice and portraiture involves spending time with her subjects and getting to know them over the course of many sessions. For the diva portraits, Nisenbaum spent time with each singer during dress rehearsals, in their dressing rooms, and then later as they got ready to perform. The character of Violetta, a fraught female, is regarded as one of the most challenging roles in opera. Each of the three stars have their own feelings, challenges, and approaches to playing her, reflected in these intimate portraits. Jaho has, as the title of her portrait notes, performed this character over 301 times.

Nisenbaum’s recent diptych paintings have focused on group portraiture. Here, she chose to focus on the larger community of the opera house and its backstage world - paying homage to the multitude of people who remain behind the scenes but are utterly essential to the magic that unfolds each evening onstage for the audiences.

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Photos by Izzy Leung
Photos by Thomas Barratt