W's arts and culture director shares her September must-see.
Identity can assume all sorts of guises, as Cindy Sherman knows only too well, having forged a brilliant career out of transforming herself into society doyennes, Renaissance madonnas, and pulpy pinups for her own camera. Sherman, who devises these personae herself, has always disappeared into the images she makes. But when her friend the musician Rufus Wainwright proposed a film to accompany a symphonic concert of his revised 2009 opera Prima Donna, about an older soprano, she agreed to be directed in the role (a first for Sherman) by the artist Francesco Vezzoli. “This was different from my own work, because I wasn’t hiding; I was embellishing myself with this character’s past,” she says. “I could totally relate to the aging part—I’m always wondering if the best is in the past.” To channel the diva’s fading glory, Vezzoli dressed Sherman in gowns borrowed from the Tirelli costume archive in Rome, many of them made for Maria Callas by Piero Tosi, the master costume designer for such classics as Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard and Death in Venice and Vittorio De Sica’s Divorce Italian Style. In his “abstract melodrama,” as Vezzoli describes the film, Sherman’s character enacts her personal crisis in a series of tableaux vivants. Prima Donna: A Symphonic Visual Concert debuts in September at the Herodeon, beneath the Acropolis, in Athens. “Having to act like I was singing opera was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” says Sherman, who hopes the experience will give her the push she needs to make another film by herself. “Thank God the only sound will be the live singers with the orchestra.”