It's not easy getting eight superstar divas in a room together. But that's effectively what Francesco Clemente has achieved with his new solo exhibition, The Sopranos, currently on view in Gallery Met.
The acclaimed painter has created a series of portraits of high-profile women singers starring in Met productions next season. Diana Damrau, Natalie Dessay, Renee Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu, Susan Graham, Karita Mattila, Anna Netrebko, and Deborah Voigt all posed on the same brown velvet sofa, in character, while Clemente painted from a scaff old constructed just for these sittings.
"It's almost a theatrical setting," the artist says of the extraordinarily precise set-up he devised in his New York studio. "We climb onto a kind of stage and work suspended up in the air... It seemed a natural movement for these opera stars to climb up to a higher level than everybody else," Clemente jokes.
For Gallery Met director Dodie Kazanjian, who arranged the show, The Sopranos offers a unique preview of the upcoming Met season. "When else in the history of opera have eight leading opera singers of the day had their portraits painted by a single leading artist?" she says.
Despite the rigors of the posing under such minutely orchestrated circumstances, there were no diva egos during the sittings. "I've always believed that there is such a thing as the modesty of greatness," Clemente says. "And this was an encounter with that idea."
The Sopranos is currently on view at Gallery Met, in the Metropolitan Opera House. The gallery will be closed from July 14 _September 1, while Lincoln Center construction is underway. The Sopranos will reopen September 2 _26. Admission is free.