A Proposal for An Interspecies Opera, Not necessarily for Performance
a change in balance and focal point
In the Royal Collection there is a drawing from 1657 by the painter Claude Lorrain that depicts the myth of Acis and Galatea, as recounted in Ovid’s 'Metamorphoses'. It shows the couple embracing in a rocky landscape with the giant Polyphemus playing pipes above. On the other side, verso, is the same design traced through.
How to bring about a rebalancing between species is a methodological question here it could be outlined in chalk circles, figures redistributed in the composition from within.
In the same year that these sketches were made Claude completed a pair of paintings depicting 'Acis and Galatea' (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden) and the 'Transformation of the Apulian Shepherd' (collection of the Duke of Sutherland). In the first painting, Claude followed the story of Acis and Galatea as recounted in Book 13 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses text.
The necessity and reason in following the original weight of assumed narrative plot points is open to question.
The figures of Acis and Galatea before their draped bower have been replaced with a collection of Polyphemus moths. The landscape - while still a coastal scene with a mountain to the right – is no longer itself. There is a chemical imbalance of hue.
Despite their size and care of execution, these plates must be regarded as interim attempts to assess the balance of the composition between species: in both cases the figures and others were traced through to the backs of the sheets of possibility (thus redefining them), the focal point replaced to allow for an experimentation of balance of power between species and interpretation.