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Art of two stages: The Florida Orchestra and the Museum of Fine Arts

Note: This article on the importance of arts collaborations stems from a partnership between The Florida Orchestra and the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg.  We have teamed up on a series of performances from renowned ballets, operas and plays whose production designs will be on view in the MFA’s upcoming exhibit, Art of the Stage: Picasso to Hockney (Jan. 25-May 10). The partnership features a TFO Masterworks concert inspired by, and enhanced with, big-screen images from the MFA exhibit on theater design, a TFO Takeover of MFA with small orchestra performances in the museum, and more on select dates in January and February. Art of the Stage is organized by the McNay Art Museum. 

By Margaret Murray
MFA Associate Curator of Public Programs

Artistic collaboration between institutions in this day and age means many things. It means pooling resources to meet a common goal, or amplifying a partnering institution’s voice. Collaboration allows us to stretch ourselves professionally and personally, bringing new voices and visions into our orbit. Through collaboration, we create art that can be seen and appreciated by so many more.

Art of the Stage: Picasso to Hockney is a special exhibition at the MFA that showcases the historical breadth of theatrical collaboration and the ways in which artists, often having achieved great success in one area, take their artistic talents in a new direction.

While working with Serge Diaghilev at the Ballets Russes, Pablo Picasso, established as a Cubist and leaving behind the success of his Blue and Rose periods, saw his early costumes for the ballet Parade shake the theater world — nearly as much as his reconnection with composer Erik Satie on Les aventures de Mercure, Picasso’s last major work for the theater, did eight years later.

Henri Matisse, designing costumes for the ballet Rouge et Noir in 1939, developed his famous cutout theories during the production, pinning paper shapes on the dancer Alicia Markova. This shift in medium sustained him through a death sentence handed down by his physician, leading to an artistically creative period that sustained him through an incredible 15 years before his death in 1954.

David Hockney not only created designs for a later version of Parade, but after Picasso’s death, worked with the artist’s printmaker, Aldo Crommelynck. Hockney ultimately collaborated on a portfolio of 20 etchings called The Blue Guitar: Etchings By David Hockney Who Was Inspired By Wallace Stevens Who Was Inspired By Pablo Picasso.

Igor Stravinsky, whose astonishing compositions are a touchstone for many of the productions featured in Art of the Stage, has said that his Octet, which will be performed by the Florida Orchestra at the museum on Jan. 26, was inspired by Mozart, who is also featured in TFO performances at the museum.

Collaborations such as these allow us to see artists, whom we often only know through their masterpieces displayed on museum walls, as creative makers. Their artistic lives become real to us, in ways that all creative makers and patrons can relate to. The thrill of trading canvas for stage sets. The heft of a hammer rather than the delicate stroke of a brush. The rhythm of song as it follows the trajectory of a play. The realization of a concept. The conversational give-and-take as you work through the creative process. The sound of an audience applauding.

In many ways, this first-of-its-kind collaboration between the MFA and TFO feels historic yet completely contemporary at the same time. Unlike the feud between Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau that saw the Surrealists shouting “Bravo Picasso! Down with Satie!” from the back of the theater, today’s cultural creators and consumers relish partnerships. These cross-organizational collaborations amplify each other’s artistry and bring new voices and a fresh vision to our audiences.

For the entire MFA team, it has been such a pleasure to see our exhibition through the orchestra’s eyes while deepening our knowledge of classical music. We have become better program presenters through this collaboration. We have shared in the excitement as word of this wide-ranging collaboration has rippled out into the world. We are eager to share these concerts, discussions and performances with the artistic community of Tampa Bay and beyond, and we are already searching for ways that our two institutions, with a wealth of art and music history between us, can create something equally beautiful again.

To explore

Art of the Stage: Picasso to Hockney:

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (Jan 17-19), in Partnership with MFA: 

TFO Takeover of MFA on Jan. 26: In spaces throughout the museum, small orchestra groups will perform music inspired by the Art of the Stage exhibit.

TFO Concert at MFA on Feb. 5: The Florida Orchestra does an intimate performance of Milhaud’s La Creation du Monde and Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, inspired by in the Art of the Stage exhibit.


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