The world-class opera sets artist David Hockney designed over a 30-year period sometimes brought to mind three-dimensional paintings: gorgeous and surreal, with purple forests, spacey blues, giant blocks and mad silhouettes acting as perfect complements to the music. Gradually, though, a congenital hearing problem stole his ability to do the work he loved, a decline documented in AMERICAN MASTERS David Hockney: The Colors of Music. "You lose the desire to hear," says Hockney in the film. "If you still had that, it would be painful." In the same offhand way, Hockney, one of the most popular and influential artists of the 20th century, describes himself as "just an artist who happens occasionally to work in the theater."
That work has included sets and costumes for 11 operas over the past three decades for opera houses from Paris, London and Glyndbourne, to New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. AMERICAN MASTERS presents a rare and intimate portrait of Hockney and his artwork when David Hockney: The Colors of Music premieres Wednesday, July 18 at 9 p.m.