Edith Sitwell: Lady Gaga 1.0

9 July 2010 § Leave a comment

Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) – poet, critic, performance artist

Sitwell published a collection of poems called Facade, beginning in 1918. In 1922, she worked with the composer and conductor William Walton to create a performance of these poems for the stage. Along with Sitwell’s spoken word and Walton’s music, the audience was surprised to find the entire show was a static curtain painted by John Piper to represent a large face. Where the mouth should be was a hole. Behind the curtain sat Edith Sitwell, invisible to the audience, reciting the poetry through a megaphone into the hole.

Facade by John Piper, 1987 (not the original)

Original reviewers described the face as half red, half white, with the megaphone protruding from the hole. Although one reviewer was a bit hostile to the performance, and one lukewarm at best, most were receptive and positive. The crowd, reportedly, was surprised and amused.


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