Image–Music–Text: Operatic Experiments in the Age of the Audiovisual Essay

João Ricardo

CESEM – Évora University, Portugal


Emerging as a new tool and form of criticism and theorizing, the audio-visual essay has stirred many different opinions within the academy, with its many different outcomes. For the scholarly purposes, combining it with text, reflection and commentary, seems to be the most common and most accepted form of audiovisual essay, easily found all over the internet in well-known video archives such as YouTube and Vimeo. Towards a more poetic end of the spectrum, breaking both the horizontal and vertical dimensions of any work may deepen and reveal new possibilities, often resulting in the creation of new hybrid pieces. This paper aims to demystify these new formats and concepts, focusing on its potentiality as a tool for criticism and its creative possibilities regarding music.

Quoting different images, texts and music, Catherine Grant’s Touching the Film Object? has created something new, out of many examples and inspirations, thinking and developing new interconnections; and more interesting, she exposed her theories with and within a creative object. Accordingly, the goal of this article is not only to analyze and expose the practices of said researchers and creators, the new formats and concepts, but also to transpose their theoretical and practical outcomes to the musical universe, by creating and presenting original audiovisual essays that aim to arouse the audience interest and fascination in the referenced, and not only heard, music.

After a brief exposition of the state of the art, a review of essayists, their embryonic works and techniques that served as examples and inspiration for the present transpositions from film theory and criticism to music and opera, the practical outcomes of this article will be analyzed: original audiovisual works created from opera and rearranged with different audiovisual components from different works, aiming to subvert the most common and usual formats expected in any video regarding music and/or opera. The end goal is to investigate and explore the combination of fragments related to opera, while at the same time trying to underline its unique characteristics by merging them into new audiovisual pieces, treating opera “[…] as a point of departure for a deeply reflective, poetic and creative transformation.”

Keywords: Audiovisual, Music, Creation, Opera, Video


João Ricardo (1993) finished his master’s degree in Artes Musicais [Musical Arts] at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (FCSH/UNL) in 2019. His second chamber opera – Eco/Arquipélago – premiered in August at OPERAFEST 2020 in Lisbon. He studies music composition and analysis under Luís Soldado and participated in masterclasses and workshops with the composers and scholars Jaime Reis, Vincent Debut, Ake Parmerud, Hans Tutschku, João Pedro Oliveira, Carlos Caires, Dimitris Andrikopoulos and António Sousa Dias. Apart from his works as a composer and music editor, he is a researcher affiliated with Centro de Estudos de Sociologia e Estética Musical (CESEM FCSH/UNL) since September 2019, within the groups Opera Studies Research Cluster and Contemporary Music Research Group, and since March 2020 he holds a research grant at University of Évora (CESEM UÉvora), integrating the project PASEV: Patrimonialization of Évora’s Soundscape (1540-1910).