• Stephen Oliver
  • The Exposition of a Picture (1986)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Royal Society of Arts

  • String Quartet
  • Tenor, baritone
  • 35 min
  • Stephen Oliver, based on an idea by Adam Pollock.
  • English

Programme Note


In a public picture gallery in England, an elderly, shabby dressed gentleman meets a younger, more impetuous man. As they converse they discover that they have much in common; both are painters, their respective partners are both singers, and both have been driven from their native countries because of political upheaval. Their conversation centres largely on a painting of the Magdalene, in front of which the older man is standing, and they discuss points of correspondence between their loved ones and the grieving woman in the picture. It is eventually revealed that the older man is Cavaradossi, who managed to survive Scarpia’s firing squad but was blinded in the process. The younger man is the painter Marcello, last seen at the death bed of the dying Mimi in La Boheme, and now living with Musetta in England, working as a portrait painter.


A dialogue takes place between two painters at a public picture gallery around 1850 in front of a painting of Mary Magdalen. The painters are in fact characters from different Puccini operas: a young Frenchman, Marcello and a blind, elderly Italian whose lover’s name was Tosca. This piece is the result of wondering what they would say to each other if they ever met.