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Art Exhibit Features Chagall's Works For Ballet And Opera

Jul 31, 2017
Originally published on July 31, 2017 3:43 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Something many people don't know about Marc Chagall - most know the late artist for modernist paintings. But he was less known for designing costumes and sets for ballets and for an opera, which are now featured in an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that opens today. NPR's Mandalit del Barco met with the artist's granddaughters.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Twins Bella and Meret Meyer, now in their 60s, reminisce while standing before the fanciful costumes and stage backdrops hand-painted by their grandfather for the Tchaikovsky ballet "Aleko."

BELLA MEYER: Music was holy to him. He would listen to it. Here we have Tchaikovsky. He would listen to it and see, how could he translate it into what he can do?

DEL BARCO: Chagall was commissioned to paint for the Ballet Theatre of New York, where he lived in exile after fleeing Nazi-occupied France. The LACMA show features rare footage of the 1942 production of "Aleko" as well as Chagall's sketches and paintings. His granddaughters remember visiting him in his studio when they were young.

MEYER: He always had a record player or the radio on and would listen to classical music. I understood from these wonderful conversations that the material and texture was very important. And through them, his paintings sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "DAPHNIS ET CHLOE")

UNIDENTIFIED OPERA SINGER: (Vocalizing).

DEL BARCO: The exhibition includes costumes and sets Chagall created for the Metropolitan Opera's 1967 version of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" and his ballet costumes for Stravinsky's "Firebird" and Ravel's "Daphnis Et Chloe." Meret Meyer now oversees Chagall's estate in Paris. Her sister Bella is a floral designer in New York, who says they grew up with their grandfather's lyrical artworks.

MEYER: His world was very much an enchanted world. And I loved when we were sitting at lunch. I just disappeared into his paintings, and they opened doors for my dreams.

DEL BARCO: Marc Chagall's "Fantasies For The Stage" are at LACMA through January 8. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.