Elias’s art fuses with Oedipus Rex Musical
Works of an Ethiopian artist is going to be put onstage! The visual artist Elias Sime’s works would be featured in a musical production in Australia at the end of this month- a Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex & Symphony of Psalms in Sydney’s Opera House from January 28 to 30. Directed by the American opera and theatre director Peter Sellars, the opera-oratorio would include Elias’s visual images to enrich the musical experience of the production.
An anthropologist and curator, Meskerem Assegued said that seven thrones and masks of materials such as mud, straw, and wood objects all done by Elias would be used to represent the work’s main characters.
Meskerem who has long been the visual art curator of Elias’s art explained that Sellars has taken an interest in the artist’s works since 2006 when she was made to curate the visual art of Green Flame of the New Crowned Hope Festival that Sellars directed in Vienna, Austria. She has then made Elias, and another Ethiopian and Mayan artists present their works for the occasion.
Elias’s work amazed Sellars. “He was elated. Not only him but there was an enthusiastic reception to the works from the public and the media. Major media outlets in Europe and America gave huge coverage to the exhibit,” recalls Meskerem.
It was then that the collaboration started. Since then, Sellars has been to Ethiopia and has had a chance to see Elias work and large, untapped potential. It was in his ten-day visit to Addis that Sellars decided that he would use Elias’s works for the next musical opera, Oedipus Rex he was directing.
Working within a time limit, Elias has started undertaking his new and challenging task. Meskerem started making an anthropological research about the play’s characters, Oedipus, Jocasta and Elias would carve them based on her briefing. The artist selected and collected his own materials for his paints and his own wood. He worked with both adzes with great precision, sure of his strokes and certain of the image which he had only in his mind.
After a month and half, Elias came up with works that evoked the unfolding of time, continuity, and ritual, and the universality of creative culture.
It appeared that Sellars has already staged the Stravinsky’s double at the LA Philharmonic last year at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Sung in Latin with English subtitles, the performances will harness the Sydney Symphony, the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and several American and Australian soloists. Both Elias and Meskerem are traveling to Sydney to attend the event.
(In the picture, Elias in his house in around Old Airport which serves as Zoma Contemporary Art Center.)