As an exhibition celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Paris Opera, photograph Heinz Peter Knes realized a series of photographs shot inside the Bastille and Garnier Opera workshops. His pictures are gathered to form a corporate exhibition held in both opera houses.
A selection of these pictures will be exposed in wide size in front of the train station Gare de l’Est and in its Alsace Hall, from December 23rd 2019 to February 22nd 2020.
The pictures will be published by Lienart in the book L’atelier des artistes (The artists’ workshops), with a note from Aurélie Filippetti.
The Paris Opera celebrates its 350th anniversary.
A remarkable age. Remarkable, yes, but synonym of youth and vitality, as could indicate the performances programmed on the Palais Garnier and the Bastille Opera stages.
Today, the institution gathers a dance company, an orchestra, a chorus, a ballet school, an academy and a team willing to support the House’ artists. A myriad of actors whose work (most of the time unseen) is a key ingredient to the success of these performances.
At the very heart of this Paris Opera house, the workshops keep creating and innovating. To appreciate them to their fair value, Berliner photographer Heinz Peter Knes was given free reins to reveal the job of these craftsmen and women. From costumes designers to make-up artists, upholsterers and scenery engineers, Knes dives in the mazes of the Opera workshops to discover the unique expertise of the Institution’s craft crew. Wigmakers, painters, sculptors, blacksmiths… Fussing in the backstage area to forge convincing decors, 180 artisans (divided in 11 different areas) work there permanently, dispatched over 3 structures: the Palais Garnier, the Bastille Opera and the Berthier workshops.
The creation, adaptation and restoration of the set designs, costumes and materials is a necessary work to fully appreciate the opera and ballet shows when it comes to new productions or to revivals of older performances.
Such crafts and expertise should be passed on to the next generation, so live entertainment can live on. The Paris Opera is working on teaching these know-how, gestures, and techniques to train the future craftsmen.
Heinz Peter Knes’s aesthetic lies between the capture of intimate life and stolen moments, to better express the uniqueness of these jobs, their modernity and their ancient anchorage. But it also shows the dreams that such jobs can convey.
Heinz Peter Knes
Born in 1969 in Germany, Heinz Peter Knes is working and living in Berlin. Between 1993 and 1999 he studied at the Dortmund University. His has been published in several magazines (including Spex, 032c, Dutch, Purple, Readymade, Freier, i-D, Art Review, Butt or Nylon) and was exposed in many solo and collective exhibitions. He co-founded the photofanzine Strahlung and regularly works with the brand Bless.
French politician and novelist, Aurélie Filippetti was Culture Minister from 2012 to 2014.
Extraits du texte d’Aurélie Filippetti sur l’exposition des images d’Heinz Peter Knes
"Les ateliers de l’Opéra c’est le réel où l’on ne se cogne pas. C’est la fantasmagorie qui s’incarne en travail. Ceux qui œuvrent-là ont le pouvoir de rendre tout rêve réel. Aucune idée ne leur résiste. Ils savent rendre vrai ce qui est faux, rendre solide ce qui est impalpable, donner un visage à un songe."
"Ils inventent et ils conservent, ils créent et ils obéissent aux désirs des autres, d’un metteur en scène, du décorateur. Mais au fond ils sont les princes de ces lieux, ceux qui les font vivre, ceux qui les irriguent."