Opera Sextronique

1967, 5:10 min, color and b&w, silent, 16 mm film on video

Yalkut's film is the only record of Nam June Paik's legendary 1967 performance Opera Sextronique in New York, which was interrupted by the arrest of cellist Charlotte Moorman, who was performing topless. The incident led to Moorman's subsequent notoriety as the "Topless Cellist." This restaging of the first two movements of Opera Sextronique, performed by Moorman and filmed by Yalkut in a studio, was shot immediately after the arrest incident to present at Moorman's trial. (The judge did not permit it to be shown in court.)

Writes Yalkut: "On February 9, 1967, The Film-Maker's Cinematheque in New York presented the World Premiere of cellist Charlotte Moorman playing Opera Sextronique by Nam June Paik. The invitation-only concert was to also have included a program with pieces by James Tenney, Takehisa Kosugi, and the premiere of the Videofilm Cinema Metapysique by Paik and Jud Yalkut. Opera Sextronique was announced as having four movements, during which Ms. Moorman would perform with pasties, topless, bottomless, and nude. The first movement was performed in the dark with Moorman wearing a blinking light bikini bra while playing Massenet's Elegy. The second movement of International Lullaby by Max Matthews was performed topless, wearing only a black skirt, and was to involve Ms. Moorman wearing various masks and bowing the cello with various objects, including a bouquet of flowers. This second movement was interrupted by her arrest by three plainclothes police officers, and the remainder of the concert went unperformed. This was the event that gave Moorman the famous sobriquet of 'The Topless Cellist.' As Paik had announced on the program: 'The purge of sex under the excuse of being "serious" exactly undermines the so-called "seriousness" of music as a classical art, ranking with literature and painting. Music history needs its D.H. Lawrence, its Sigmund Freud.'

For the upcoming trial, to try to represent what the composition looked like, Charlotte Moorman restaged the first two movements of Opera Sextronique in a studio, and Jud Yalkut filmed it. Although it was permitted to bring a 16mm projector into the courtroom, Judge Shalleck disallowed the showing of the film and only permitted the screening of a brief clip shot by a CBS news cameraman. This restaged film, shot immediately after the arrest incident, is the only historical record of Opera Sextronique."


This is a video transfer of a work initially shot on film. This is best shown as a projection, to reflect the original medium.
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See also

1995, 29 min, color, sound