The Robert L. B. Tobin Legacy: Opera, Design and the Visual Arts

Thursday, March 5, 2020 - 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM


Chiego Lecture Hall

The Robert L. B. Tobin Legacy: Opera, Design and the Visual Arts

Opera is a ‘multi-media’ art form, but for most of the 20th century, the ‘multi’ was ignored! Despite the scenic splendor of 17th and 18th century opera in Italy and France, from 1900 onward the auditory dimension of the art form took precedence over the visual. The popularity of 78-rpm records (RCA Victor in the vanguard), radio broadcasts, LPs, and then CDs, trained people to listen but not to look. It is only with the introduction of regular telecasts in the late 1970s, videos then DVDs and, today, HD transmissions to movie theaters, that the visual dimension of opera has reverted to its natural partnership with words and music.


The return of the visual to opera in the 1970s is concurrent with the establishment and early growth of OPERA America. In this presentation, OPERA America President/CEO, Marc A. Scorca, will explore the redevelopment of the visual dimension of opera in three dimensions:

  • Great visual artists who have created in the opera house.
  • The masterful theatrical designers who support the drama of opera.
  • The promising next generation of innovators who will expand the definition of the art form.


The presentation will highlight productions underwritten generously by Robert L.B. Tobin at the Metropolitan Opera and Santa Fe Opera that demonstrate the advance of design in opera.

This lecture is a program of the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund.