La Traviata Opera Poster

This project (completed for my typography class in spring 2021) was a study in radial design. The assignment was to create a poster for Guiseppe Verdi's opera la Traviata, a story about the doomed love between Violetta, a courtesan, and Alfredo, an upper class gentleman. For the assignment, we were provided the text and expected to use it in full.

I chose to work with the additional element of illustration, largely based off of historic opera posters in which dramatic portraits of the heroine are often used. Here, the figure is not so much meant to be Violetta so much as evoke the idea of her. Her vulnerability is present in the fetal pose, while the blue of her skin speaks to the production's ultimate tragedy: her death. There is an implied violence in the exaggerated skew of her neck. She is doll-like, broken, and about her face the type radiates like a halo, culminating with the bold title feature that encapsulates the production's dramatics.

 

Below are my inspirations for the project.

Rafal Olbinksi, "La Traviata," c. 1980.

For Opera Pacific's production, Olbinski too drew on source material for his design that focused on the heroine's portrait, however his surrealist interpretation added a dream-like quality that emphasized the story's tone over its plot. You will recognize the woman's pose from my work, however the body is my own.

Pablo Picasso, "le Rêve," 1932.

Visions of sleeping women—often nude— are commonplace in art history and explore  power dynamics between the watcher and the watched. They are also often sexual, as can be scene in Picasso's "le Rêve," in which his lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter (then only 22 to his 55), is exposed while in slumber and captured in paint. Her pose is eerily similar to Olbinski's, and the themes present reminded me of the tragic end of Violetta. Her role as a courtesan is one meant to be possessed by men as Picasso possessed Walter. Not only that, but the image of sleep is one likened to that of a corpse, signifying the heroine's impending death. From this piece I pulled Walter's nose to define my figure's face, as well as her long sheet of hair to frame my title.

Henri Matisse, "the Blue Nudes," 1952.

"The Blue Nudes" were a series of nude lithographs Matisse produced in his signature cut-out style. In their simplicity, these abstracted bodies make for ideal canvases to capture the idea of 'woman' instead of a specific one. Not only that, but their closed off poses informed the construction of my body, while the color palette was key to perfecting my work's tone. The paper cut-out style is present primarily in my figure's lips and eyes. Glaring white, they allow for ambiguity and raise the question: are they open or closed? Sleeping or looking? Passive or active? This ambiguity allows for different, more modern, interpretations of the source material

Early Versions