The starting point for this project was seeing a photo of Leontyne Price on the record sleeve of RCA’s Victor Red Seal recording of Bizet’s Carmen. I thought her afro was iconic. I didn’t know anything about her before I began my research. I was inspired to learn that she was one of the first African-Americans to become a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera. Having now listened to her voice I understand why she was rank fourth, in order after, Maria Callas, Dame Joan Sutherland, and Victoria de los Ángeles on BBC Music magazine‘s list of the “20 All-time Best Sopranos”.
Further research relieved that she was a mentor to tenor, Noah Stewart. Born in 1978; he discovered opera as a teenager through seeing a video of Leontyne performing. She played an instrumental role in his career recommending that he attend The Juilliard School as she had done. They both came from humble beginnings, and with without the full scholarships they received would not have able take up a place at the prestigious school.
Leontyne and Noah have both performed at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Both have played lead roles in Carmen.
Leontyne retired from the opera stage in 1985 when Noah just seven, so they never had the opportunity to appear in Carmen together. My knitted toy theatre enables them to appear in Carmen on the same stage.
The theatre knitted on a Knitmaster 370 fine gauge domestic knitting machine. The method used was intarsia, where yarn is laid manual over the needle following a chart. This is the slowest technique of knitting on a machine. The average rate of knitting was 5 rows an hour.
Once all the pieces were knitted the ends of yarn on the back of the knitting needed to be sewn in for a neat finish.
For the background I created a knitted tavern. To pull the work together I have used a limited colour palette. The brown in the tavern are the same as those used in the portraits.
You can see this the knitted Toy theatre at the Deloitte Ignite Festival at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden on 5th & 6th September 2015.