The one thing you should see this week: a ravishing look inside the world’s greatest performance halls

The one thing you should see this week: a ravishing look inside the world’s greatest performance halls


Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy (Image: Bau-Xi Photo) 

This week’s pick: David Leventi’s Bjoerling’s Larynx

The Teatro La Fenice, in Venice, burned down twice and was rebuilt twice. The Teatro Amazonas, in Brazil, was imported from Europe piece-by-piece, and assembled in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. A faulty chandelier in Paris’s Palais Garnier inspired The Phantom of the Opera. Opera houses not only stage great stories—they are great stories in themselves. New York photographer David Leventi has dedicated the past three years to those dramas, taking painterly, large-scale shots of the interiors of renowned international opera houses. Thirteen pieces from his gorgeous series, Bjoerling’s Larynx, are currently on display at Bau-Xi Photo.

The most striking images are taken from the same place: centre stage. The vantage point gives the viewer the impression of standing there, just as a singer might the moment a performance begins. The difference? Row upon row of seats are empty. Rehearsal microphones have been left onstage. A small tour group mills about. Seeing these almost pedestrian details in world-famous performance spaces prompts the viewer to look beyond the awesome symmetry and overwhelming richness of Leventi’s photos, and brings other details into relief: chipping paint, myriad trompe l’oeil effects, even Chagall’s signature on a ceiling.

Comparisons can be safely drawn between Leventi and German photographer Candida Höfer, known for her architectural interiors (some of which were featured at the AGO’s 2009 show Beautiful Fictions). But it’s the influence of Robert Polidori, Leventi’s former boss of six years, which is most keenly felt here. Polidori’s Versailles: Transitional States, brought to town by the Nicholas Metivier Gallery in 2008, is a study of the restoration of the palace over 25 years. Like Polidori, Leventi forgoes antiseptic reverence to focus on the workaday dignity of spaces that have seen millions pass through their doors.

The details: Feb. 5 to 19. Free. Bau-Xi Photo, 324 Dundas St. W., 416-977-0400, bau-xiphoto.com