Creating Operatic Print Design Magic in a Box

by Ellen M. Shapiro
February 3, 2021

When theaters are dark because of the pandemic, what do you do (if you’re smart)?

You send subscribers and classical music buffs an opera in a box, of course. No, three operas—actually song cycles (a group of sequenced tunes): Leoš Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Dominick Argento’s From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, and Juliana Hall’s A World Turned Upside Down, based on Anne Frank’s diary. Collectively, they make up “The Beauty That Still Remains: Diaries in Song.”

On Site Opera, a New York–based organization that, in usual times, performs in venues that fit the settings of the stories—parks, restaurants, clubs, museums, soup kitchens—chose to present its 2020–2021 offerings via text and images (which include QR codes to listen to the music), all printed on paper and sent through the mail.

I learned about this from music critic Joshua Barone’s half-page New York Times review of “a boxed set of design artifacts.” The photos showed the kind of project that won awards in decades past: die-cut folders with foil-stamped typography, out of which spilled inserts of various kinds and sizes. Clearly, this was a graphic design story in addition to a story about how musical performances can be produced in the time of COVID. Yet the designer’s name—Stephanie Reyer—was mentioned only once. I had to hunt for it in the text. Reyer herself was easier to find: teaching an exhibition design class on Zoom for the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she’s director of the Museum Exhibition Planning+Design MFA program.

Reyer, whose clients include the Museum of Chinese in America and the Museum of the American Revolution, and I soon found ourselves speaking at length about the project.

Here are some excerpts from our conversations….

Read the entire article HERE.

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