DUVA DIVA: DuvTeatern's Glorious Carmen: Photographs by Stefan Bremer
Fifty per cent of the proceeds from the sale of the
photographs in this exhibit will go directly to support DuvTeatern's ongoing programs
and future productions.
On January 22, 2011, perhaps the world's most extraordinary production of Bizet's
classic opera, "Carmen," opened to rave reviews at Finland's National Opera House
This unusual production, conceived and directed by Mikaela Hasan, included 12 actors
and dancers with Down Syndrome or other intellectual disabilities, members of Finland's
DuvTeatern theatre company. Performing alongside the Finnish National Opera's professional
singers and musicians, DuvTeatern's "Carmen" became, overnight, a glorious critical
and artistic success.
Stefan Bremer, one of Finland's best known and most talented photographers, has
photographed DuvTeatern productions since 2003. The winner of Helsinki's prestigious
Culture Award in 2011, he was commissioned to document DuvTeatern's "Carmen" from
its earliest stages to its glorious opening night, when a standing room only crowd
of opera lovers and theatre goers witnessed a production unlike any before or since.
According to Bremer and others, there was hardly a dry eye in the house that night
as this dramatic production unfolded to wild applause and critical acclaim.
Bremer could easily have defined his commission to document the production from
the perspective of a photo journalist, producing hundreds of candid photos of the
Duvteatern actors and dancers interacting with the professional singers and musicians
from the Finnish National Opera during rehearsals and in performance.
His stroke of inspiration and genius was to also shoot formal portraits of the Duvteatern
actors and dancers in costume, as if they were opera stars (or divas) in their own
right, giving them the same respect, majesty and glamour that real opera stars would
be given as a matter of course. In so doing, his brilliant Duvteater portraits upend
traditional definitions of glamour and beauty and themselves reach the level of
I first saw Bremer's photo-portraits of the DuvTeatern actors and dancers last summer
in Helsinki when Mikaela Hasan, Duvteatern's founder and principal director, insisted
on showing them to me one night at dinner. Although not overly enthusiastic when
she first told me about them, I knew instantly, when I saw them, that they were
among the most powerful and moving photographs I had ever seen. And they fit the
exact definition of the art I hoped to show in the gallery I was then planning---art
that influences social and political change.
Edgy and compelling, disturbing yet extraordinarily beautiful, these are landmark
photographs that could, and should, have a place in the history of photographic
art. Visually, they are stunning. Emotionally, they are almost overpowering. And
without so much as a word, they open our eyes to a world most of us have never before
seen, forcing us to reconsider our notions of what beauty is and who is beautiful…and
challenging us to discard our preconceptions of what people who are intellectually
disabled can achieve.
This is what Mary Ruppert, the director of philanthropy at Washington's L'Arche
community, a home for people who are intellectually disabled, wrote to a friend
the day after she first saw Bremer's DuvTeatern photographs at my gallery:
"Last night I got a peek at the proofs of the photos, and instantly fell in love.
They are as beautiful works of art as they are strong statements of the creativity
and giftedness of people who have intellectual disabilities…a compelling visual
representation of the message that we have been trying to send about the dignity
and blessing of people who are normally left in the shadows."
"A compelling visual representation of the…dignity and blessing of people who are
normally left in the shadows."
I am honored to show these great photographs in Washington.
GALLERY OPEN THIS WEEKEND--Or By Appointment