From 20-29 May, Rotterdam is hosting Opera Days, an annual festival of contemporary music theatre. This year Het Nieuwe Instituut is one of the venues and is exhibiting artist Ai Weiwei’s unique set for the opera As Big as the Sky in its largest gallery.
The set is designed so that it can be presented as an autonomous installation, independent of a performance of the opera. It represents China’s rapidly developing economy, resulting in radical changes to the built environment. Whereas theatre audiences had to view the set from their seats, in Het Nieuwe Instituut visitors will literally be able to enter the world that Ai Weiwei has created.
Ai Weiwei is an artist, activist, architect, curator and filmmaker. For As Big as the Sky he has combined a physical set with projections of architectural drawings, videoconferences, twitter feeds, television news and documentary films. The presentation at Het Nieuwe Instituut includes previously unseen film footage of Ai Weiwei.
[…] a set with a kind of Sol LeWitt-like simplicity, in which film determines and augments the form. The film footage gives an extra dimension not only to the scenes but also to the set.
Arnoud Noordegraaf (composer and director of the opera):
Ai Weiwei’s combination of militancy, criticism and irony translates into strong images and bold gestures that are not out of place in an opera. He unerringly understood how his artistic vision fitted within this opera. In the interweaving of genres with which I work, he recognised an entirely new challenge: to mix sculptural work with film. He decided immediately that he wanted to make film footage an integral part of the set design.
As Big as the Sky, composed and directed by Arnoud Noordegraaf with a libretto by Adrian Hornsby, premiered at the Holland Festival in June 2015.
On the eve of Rotterdam’s Opera Days festival, theatre and opera director Johan Simons is our guest for a Thursday Night Special on 19 May. He will talk with him about (music) theatre as gesamtkunstwerk and the role of the director and the stage designer.
'Grandiose plans’ from the archive
To coincide with the display of Ai Weiwei’s opera set in Gallery 1, Het Nieuwe Instituut presents a selection of drawings from the State Archive for Architecture. As archivist Alfred Marks explains, ‘The sketches bear witness to grandiose plans: space seems limitless and daydreams become reality. H.P. Berlage’s plans to expand The Hague were even accompanied by a new city map, incorporating K.P.C. de Bazel’s design for an international capital in the dunes of Scheveningen.’