In a special one-off event to launch its 2017 season, Opera Queensland has brought together the world of music, visual art, and dance in Sensory. With a series of live opera performances situated throughout the gallery spaces of GOMA, audiences choose their own paths through the exhibits, meaning each experience is utterly unique. Part of the GOMA Turns 10 celebrations, Sensory promises a feast for the senses.

Lindy Hume, Opera Queensland Artistic Director, describes the evening as “a dream landscape. There’s no sense of any linear narrative or logical sequence of events, but as in a dream, everything one encounters is somehow familiar, with a deep and intangible undertow”.

Katie Stenzel and Brendan Joyce in SensoryKatie Stenzel and Brendan Joyce in front of Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir’s Nervescape V. Photo © Stephanie Do Rozario

The performers chosen for the evening’s special celebration include violinist and leader of Queensland’s chamber orchestra Camerata Brendan Joyce, Brisbane soprano Sarah Crane, and Brisbane pianist Alex Raineri. Musical highlights will include Strauss’ Die Nacht, performed by Crane and Raineri, and the Méditation from Massenet’s Thais, performed by Joyce. Richard Causer and Michelle Barnett from Expressions Dance Company will further complement the night’s musical aspects.

Lindy Hume and musical director Narelle French were tasked with “finding the right music to fit with our amazing artists and equally incredible artworks”. Works that provoke “introspection, shadow and foreboding”, French explains, are set off by selections from Schubert’s Winterreise, while dancers weave in and out of rooms where surreal spheres of water and air are suspended from the ceiling.

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian's mirror mosaicMonir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian’s mirror mosaic

“Sometimes it was the piece of art which claimed a piece of music”, says French, with respect to Monir Sharoudy Farmanfarmaian’s mirror mosaic artwork. “The incredible play of light and darkness emanating from the work called out to a pair of songs we had hoped to include, but without initially knowing where – Rusalka’s Song to the Moon, and its less well-known partner piece, another Song to the Moon, this time from Offenbach’s Fantasio.”

“Whether it’s the moody Romanticism of Schubert Lieder, a lush moonsong, or the sparse elegance of a Monteverdi chorale, we want the music and performance to resonate psychologically with the magnificent artworks in each space,” said Hume.

A few words from Geraldine Barlow, Curatorial Manager of International Art, QAGOMA, about some of the works included in Sensory:

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Nervescape V 2016
Nervescape V 2016 by Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir has transformed the walls of GOMA. Exuberant, tactile and sprawling, this specially commissioned installation is constructed from massed bundles of multi-coloured synthetic hair. This work is a kind of sensory overload – so big, so colourful, so soft. I’m looking forward to seeing what OperaQ program to ‘speak’ to this vivid landscape.

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian / Lightning for Neda 2009
Senior female Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian’s mirror mosaic draws on an Iranian decorative technique known as aineh-kari, which uses pieces of broken mirror and dates back to the sixteenth century. In Lightning for Neda over 4000 intricate mirror shards activate myriad patterns, creating a stunning visual effect. The title of this work pays homage to Neda Agha Soltan, a 27-year-old Iranian woman killed in the streets of Tehran during protests that followed the 12 June 2009 presidential elections.

Biospheres at GOMATomás Saraceno, Argentina b.1973 / Biosphere 02, Biosphere & Biosphere cluster 05 2009 / PVC, rope, nylon monofilament, acrylic, Tillandsia plants, air pressure regulator system, hydration system / Purchased 2014 with funds from Tim Fairfax, AC, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist.

Tomás Saraceno / Biospheres
Trained as an architect, and interested in ecology for its social and interactive possibilities, Saraceno was inspired by utopian experiments, as well as by radical architectural projects and scientific investigations. The Biospheres act as salient metaphors for the interconnectedness of ecosystems, and rethink the links between architecture and art. These ideas find physicality in the experience of walking through the threads of rope that extend out from the works and of looking up at the Biospheres as they hover in mid-air. While the proposition of clusters of biosphere cities in the sky may be utopian, it is a reminder that contemporary art provides space in which we can imagine profoundly different futures.

Opera Queensland’s Sensory is at GOMA, Queensland April 7