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Comics at the Opera: Portland Comics Creators Draw ‘Pagliacci’ [Art]

Comics — and comics artists — have proved their versatility in a wide variety of media, including movies, video games, and animation, but a group of Portland artists including Matt Wagner, Steve Lieber, Colleen Coover, Erika Moen and many more were recently invited as guest cartoonists at a very unusual venue: the opera. Inspired by the previous opera cartoons of Mike Russell, the Portland Opera asked about 20 local creators to free draw while they watched a dress rehearsal of the opera Pagliacci, a dramatic tale of love and betrayal where an unfaithful wife is discovered by her husband, and then the two must put on a play with a startlingly similar story that ends in tragedy.

The Portland Opera has their own catalog of sketches, and we’ve got our favorite highlights below. Click through on any creator’s name to see more of their opera sketches or recollections of the event.


The artistic responses ranged from elaborate, detailed sketches to figure drawing to autobiographical journals of the event, and ComicsAlliance was there to capture the evening — which including an intermission appearance from a beautiful, enormous albino boa constrictor — with photos and videos. As someone who had never attended an opera before, I shared the feelings of the cartoonists who often got so engrossed in the story that they forgot to draw. It was not only a very enjoyable experience personally, but an admirable act of outreach from the Portland Opera that helped both the opera and comics communities appreciate the other more.

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