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Performance Opera - What It Is







Our urgency as artists is also to define with exact words the activity we do, deepening that which that each chosen word properly means.



-     The term 'performance' derives from the verb perform (c. 1300), meaning: 'to carry into effect, fulfil, discharge,' via Anglo-French performer, altered (by influence of Old French forme 'form,' from Latin forma) from Old French parfornir 'to do, carry out, finish, accomplish,' from par-'completely' (see per-) + fornir 'to provide' (see furnish).

-     The Latin preposition per- indicates, 'passing through a space and extending or spreading over and around.' As a prefix to a word it works as a superlative, complement or continuation.

-     The Latin noun forma derives from the Greek phorēsis, 'the act of carrying,' from phorein 'to carry, wear,' frequentative of pherein 'the action to bring,' in the same way that it means 'bearing,' 'posture' and seemingly 'aspect,' 'resemblance' and moreover 'image.'

-     The Latin for-ma connects also to the Sanskrit root DHAR, meaning 'holding, supporting, containing,' and desinence Sanskrit MADHAR-MA means 'stationary, fixed,' (in Hindu holy Scriptures, meaning: the eternal law of the cosmos, inherent in the very nature of things), however for-ma is a term that responds to the Sanskrit term DHAR-I-MAN, meaning 'form, shape, figure and image,' and also 'the choice and the way to dispose of matters, whatever they are, in the human labor.'

Therefore, according to its etymological derivations, 'performance' can be said to mean acting in support of the image.



-     The Latin noun opera means 'labour, work.' It also implies the idea of opus in alchemy. In Italy, during the XVII century, the term opera was in use to define 'the labour that a person accomplishes in a day,' at first just the 'manual labour,' later also ethic and moral action, as well as intellectual, artistic, and scientific labour. The Italian Io opero (literally translated as 'I operate' or 'I work') is a more refined expression than the simple Io lavoro, 'I work.'


Eventually, according to the etymological definition of these two terms, 'performance opera' can be said to mean: To work/operate, acting in support of the image. 

In fact, when we perform we actually create a work — even though ephemeral — consisting of live images, which in turn produce meanings. 


With the expression performance opera we don't intend to define performances, which are mainly choreographed or a priori structured in every part. Our stance is that a performance should always remain open to the unpredictability of process, even though methodologically well-pondered and organized. As it was for the alchemists engaging in their philosophical quest, a performance opera is a vision and the result of a creative process, in the space where it takes place, the laboratory to play out new challenges. 

By VestAndPage

First published on the artists’ website

August 2017


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