fish and big abstract

the magic sea

a meta-art project of a special kind.

The Magic Sea Opera: The basic idea for this special “opera project” came to me almost exactly 50 years ago. In the course of time, it came up again and again. And with the sensational production of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung with “La Fura dels Baus” in Valencia in 2007, the idea got new impetus. [1]
Not everyone is a fan of Richard Wagner’s operas, but to make my concept easier to understand, feel free to imagine the Ring. What is essential, however, is Wagner’s epochal concept of the “Gesamtkunstwerk”. And here again his idea of not only composing themes for the actors but also e.g. the Rhine, Siegfried’s sword, or the ring, and using these themes to describe the action in the composition.

The word opera, as we use it today, comes from Latin opera and means “work”. Only in 1639 was it used in the sense of “composition” in which poetry, dance, and music are combined”.
The optical part initially played a minor role in operas. Over time, more attention was paid to costumes and stage design. Even the soprano repertoire was expanded to include a coloratura soprano (18th-19th ct.), but colors and visuals remained neglected. So at some point, I started thinking about how to overcome this deficiency.

the concept

Even if the idea that I would like to present today might sound unrealistic or at least utopian at first, I would by no means see it as unfeasible. Namely, the idea of an opera as a total work of art, in which the visual part is the actor, tells the story. A storyline that evolves dynamically and conceptually. Even more, it can be modulated and further developed by us. Sounds a bit confusing? For a better understanding I will sketch the core of the basic idea and the course of the opera with little text and only discuss the beginning and the end in more detail. (I have painted almost all of the presented pictures and drafts recently).

the magic sea announcement

Where are we today?

AI [2] already answers the most complex questions, writes texts for us, composes pieces of music, draws pictures for us, and will certainly also write a libretto for us. At some point, AI will also be able to create something like a dynamic image layer for us, a vision in progress. As predicted, Mark Z.’s metaverse project failed, the underlying idea by no means. In order to be able to better imagine the project discussed today, for the sake of simplicity we put on mental metaverse glasses. [3]

What’s new in this project?

What we get today as answers from AI programs like ChatGPT & Co depends on the quality of our questions. We know that. Similarly, the visual part of our “opera magna” will also be designed according to our input. But, and this is special, the metadata and prompts should not be written. We feed the program with a series of images – in draft or detailed form – and in this way, together with the written data, supply everything that the program needs. The program then uses the data provided to create the finished opera. So it uses the provided data on music, action, or images and thus creates a dynamic visionary work.

This article is not about presenting a finished project, not even showing finished pictures – because there aren’t that many – but showing the development of an idea.

The philosophical part will not be discussed further. Of course, ideas from Zen and Dao [blog posts] were the inspiration. Of course, I would set up the project in a relatively abstract way and the sea would be the basic theme. In Genesis 3 we read: “For dust you are and to dust you will return.” Well, when we look into an urn, we see little dust. We are mainly made up of water. We come from the water (sea) and this gave birth to all life.


When we attend an opera today, the hall is relatively dark at the beginning, with some light coming from the orchestra pit. At the beginning of our opera, it is also very dark, black. It is the nothingness that existed before chaos – in the classic philosophical sense – and which created everything. The scene slowly brightens, and becomes foreboding. What we see is an abstract scenario that reflects both the sea and space and can be both micro and macrocosm. It is formless and has form, is motionless and dynamic, etc. In short, it is very Daoistically conceived.

magic sea opera opening scene

act 1

And so this magic sea opera also begins in the realm of chaos, from which the forms of being, objects, and scenes gradually develop. The diffuse light at the beginning gradually begins to form spaces and structures. The initially warm tones slowly become colder.

chaos part of magic sea opera

The protagonists of this opera are themes (in Wagner’s sense), e.g. the abstract and the concrete, the white as the light a.s.o. Initially, the light would primarily define space or just places and objects. What is initially reminiscent of an opera stage (detail 1) gradually expands (detail 2). An additional level comes into play through abstract faces or sea creatures. (detail 1a)

magic sea opera's opening scenes

The idea touched on in an earlier article (new horizon) of no longer looking at an image in front of you, but rather standing in the center of the action, naturally takes on a special significance.

magic sea opera black and blue

The light leads us further and further into the depths of the sea and reveals new worlds to us.

magic sea opera scene light and fish
the magic sea opera scene

To the extent that we bring in details in color and shape, we get a corresponding end product.

magic sea opera scene details

act 2

The second act begins again with a very abstract image, which again outlines the events of the act through themes and composition.

magic sea opera act 2

Everything around us is condensed now, tremendous power is brewing from the interplay of the opposites like the abstract and the concrete.

magic sea scene with fish and algae

The tension rises, and this force increases further and discharges explosively…..

the magic sea fish and land

….. emerges from the depths of the sea and, forming a powerful suction, washes around the earth and pulls everything with it into the depths.

fish in the air

act 3

The third act begins with the calm after the storm. The “gluttonous fish” has devoured everything, and calm is gradually spreading.

act 3 in the magic sea

(an abstraction of the head of the “gluttonous fish” – detail)

magic sea detail with fish head

Sky and sea begin to harmonize again and the light shows the way.

fish and fantasy scene

White, as light and principle, is taking up more and more space. The abstract and the concrete have found a playful and harmonious coexistence.

fish and big abstract

Closing scene

Towards the end, it gets very dramatic again and the “opera drums” are really hammered out before the light finally asserts itself and absorbs everything. (With Wagner, the orchestra consists of around 100 musicians, so we can really let it rip). This would result in a picture like the following one towards the very end in which the dark forces ease and gradually give way to the light.

the magic sea opera last scene

The very last stroke I made in this picture is this blue, floating something in the upper left of the picture, which is hardly noticeable because of its delicacy, but which is nevertheless of great importance.
This something can refer to the sea and to the sky. It points far in the distance and is very close. It can be a fish and a bird, it is moved and rests in itself.
In this picture, if we mentally draw a curve from the blue something to the bottom edge of the page, we find its opposite: an explosion, which is the opposite of calm and stillness.

We are again in the void, in the nothingness, that contains everything – now white and radiant. And so the cycle is closed.

the magic sea ending scene

What if?

What if the project never materializes? Because there will be no corresponding AI program or AI will be banned at all?

What I particularly like about this project is that failure is already part of the concept. It wasn’t until I was writing the article that I remembered: there was something about the failure of an opera project?! Those who know the fantastic film Fitzcarraldo will remember how this great dreamer wanted to build an opera house in the jungle and failed miserably.

And like Klaus Kinski as Fitzcarraldo, I will not see failure as a defeat but will puff on a thick cigar happily – next to me the velvet-covered chair of the opera director. The only thing left of the project – at least physically 😊

Klaus Kinsky as Fitzccaraldo


[1] If you want to get an impression of this grandiose ring production, this link is recommended:

[2] Like any new technology, artificial intelligence also offers opportunities and risks and it is up to us what we make of it. Although Italy recently banned ChatGPT, the ban will fall again I think.

[3] For this opera, I would use Richard Wagner and Japanese koto music as musical opposites and music by Brian Eno as a supporting base.



59 responses to “the magic sea”

  1. Traum(A)Kinder avatar

    Kraftvolle Bilder und ein spannendes Projekt! Es macht mich neugierig.

    Im Film Avatar 2 wird gesagt:

    „Der Weg des Wassers hat keinen Anfang und kein Ende.
    Das Wasser umgibt dich und ist in dir.
    Das Wasser ist deine Heimat, vor deiner Geburt und nach deinem Tod.
    Unsere Herzen schlagen im Schoß der Welt.
    Das Wasser gibt und das Wasser nimmt.
    Wasser verbindet alle Dinge; Leben mit Tod, Dunkelheit mit Licht.“

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Vielen herzlichen Dank! Vor allem auch fuer das Zitat. Das kannte ich nicht. Und es passt sooo gut! 🙂

  2. swabby429 avatar

    I definitely see the Wagerian flavor of your painting series. Additionally, the small fish images bring a bit of Mozartesque accent.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Ha, you have a good eye and sense! The title “Magic sea” of course refers to “Magic flute”. Wagner operas can be very boring. The Magic Flute, on the other hand, sparkles with joie de vivre.

      1. swabby429 avatar


  3. Michael Sammut avatar

    Awesome 👍

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much 🙏

      1. Michael Sammut avatar

        You’re most welcome.

  4. Dana at Regular Girl Devos avatar

    Beautiful. You set my imagination alight! Thank you Friedrich.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      You are very kind, Dana, and I am very happy. Have a great weekend!

  5. Una mirada... avatar
    Una mirada…

    It is an original and fabulous project. I hope it can materialize some day.


    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! In any case, I’m the kind of guy who does a lot of things just in his head. But in some form these mental games materialize sooner or later. Often different than expected – it comes as it comes..

  6. Dawn Pisturino avatar

    Very dramatic and impressive artwork!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks a lot! It may sound very unrealistic and maybe it is. But at least I got an input for a couple of pictures 🙂

      1. Dawn Pisturino avatar

        Nothing is impossible!

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        If someone had told our great-grandfathers that metal things weighing tons were going to the moon, we would have heard: NEVER! 🙂

      3. Dawn Pisturino avatar

        Right on! Peace and blessings to you!

  7. The Sicilian Storyteller avatar

    Masterful, Fred! May I suggest a piece of music to accompany these fabulous pieces? It’s not Wagner but I think you will enjoy it nonetheless!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you! Sure, Gluck would be a pretty good option and I like Orpheo a lot.

      1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar


  8. mich avatar

    The painting at the top of the page is breathtakingly spectacular. I’ll see if I can print and enlarge it and put it on the wall.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you, Mich! It’s people like you who help me act out my follies. If I didn’t see that someone else could do something with it, I wouldn’t be that active 🙂

  9. Rosaliene Bacchus avatar

    What a fascinating concept! An amazing progression of paintings that brings the story to life! I can already hear and see the opera in action 🙂 With the technology now available, perhaps the time has come to turn “The Magic Sea” opera into reality.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! The technical part should be no big problem in he near future, I think. But it would be too expensive for a fun project like mine. I am not sure if the program would be of any use for anybody else.

  10. Dominik Alexander avatar

    Haven’t read your text word by word so far but got your idea. And I can already see the opera, actually, I imagine it inside a Panometer (the Yadegar Asisi one) or planetarium with your paintings in 3D all around the spectators. Together with music I would add ballet dancers plus spoken poems from the off. Would be an outer space experience!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Many thanks, Dominkik! The variant of showing it in a panometer would of course be very attractive – once it is suitable for the masses. Ballet, texts (experimental from Jandl to the present day), many things could be built in. Only a few more pictures have to be fed in and the project gets a different twist.

  11. Edith avatar

    Das Meer riecht immer nach Freiheit. Genau so komponierte Wagner – frei. Er schuf dramatische Werke, ließ sich aus, schöpfte tief, für mich ist er eine Droge. Und doch wird alles in der Romantik angesiedelt.
    Deine Bilder sind sehr passend dazu. Ich habe mir gestern Abend Wagner angehört und dabei deine Bilder angeschaut. Mit der Musik folgte ich deinem Lauf – unbeschreiblich ergreifend war ich in einer Welt gefangen. Ich habe so etwas noch nie gemacht und bin dankbar für diese/deine Idee.
    *Die Freiheit ist wie das Meer: Die einzelnen Wogen vermögen nicht viel, aber die Kraft der Brandung ist unwiderstehlich.* Das sagte einmal Václav Havel. Und es trifft hier zu!
    Ich tu mich ein wenig schwer mit dem Wort ‘magisch’. Für mich ist dieses Wort zu wenig dafür, vielleicht auch zu flach. Die meisten Menschen verbinden damit einfach mal so eine Zauberkunst. Doch das ist es hier bei weitem nicht.

    Dir einen feinen Sonntag. DANKE für die Vorstellung dieses Projektes. Bleib dran!!!
    Herzlichst, Edith

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Danke vielmals, liebe Edith, für Deine, wie immer, aufmunternden Worte! Ich freue mich wirklich sehr, dass Du das Ganze in meinem Sinn verstanden hast. Danke auch für Václav Havels Zitat, das sehr passend ist. Was die Wellen und das Meer betrifft war ich mehr im Zen. Wir nehmen uns selbst als einzelne Welle war und doch sind wir eine von vielen in einem großen Meer und können uns nur im Gesamten begreifen. Dass das Wort magisch nicht optimal ist, sehe ich auch so. Ich wollte mit einem Augenzwinkern auf Mozarts Zauberflöte anspielen, die ja dafür sorgt, dass Mensch und Tier friedlich werden können. Das Ganze befindet sich ja noch in einem recht frühen Stadium.

      1. Edith avatar

        Dein Projekt, so denke ich, kommt auch ohne die Zauberflöte aus. In Wagner findet auch Verschmelzung statt, dies wurde mir beim Hören mit deinen Bildern dazu bewusst. Es war nur mein Gedanke, der nicht stimmen muss. Zen ist für mich ein Projekt, welches ich so nach und nach durcharbeite, sieh mir die Lücken nach…

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Danke nochmals! Ds mit Mozart war nur eine Gedankenspielerei. So ein Projekt durchlaeuft ja viele Phasen. Zu Zen gibt es nächste Woche wieder einen Beitrag. Ego versus Selbst. Zu Zen in der Kunst findet sich mehr unter

  12. graham mcquade avatar

    Lovely idea, Friedrich. I like the set of paintings – an impressive body of work. I cant register a like as the option doesnt load.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you Graham! Yes, a lot of work to present a crazy idea 🙂 (The liking isn’t important, but I remember you had a problem with that before. Hell, that technique….)

  13. klotylda avatar

    Sehr episch. Im Geiste der Romantik, was sehr gut in unsere Zeit passt. Viele Parallelen, noch mehr Reflexionen. Jedes Kunstwerk beginnt im Kopf, aber damit die Idee zum Leben erweckt werden kann, müssen manchmal viele äußere Ereignisse zusammenkommen. Ich bin gespannt, wie sich diese Idee entwickelt. Denn irgendwo in meinem Hinterkopf kreist die Frage: Kann KI den Geist des Werks einfangen? Jedenfalls drücke ich die Daumen, dass es gelingt.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Vielen herzlichen Dank! Ja, wir brauchen mehr Romantik! Im kunstgeschichtlichen Sinn, aber vielleicht auch im Zwischenmenschlichen.
      Ich bin definitiv kein Befuerworter von Kunst, die mit KI geschaffen wurde. Alles seelenloses Zeug. Aber KI wird Realitaet werden unser Leben in vielen Bereichen praegen. Es wird an uns liegen, auch in der Kunst, wie wir sie verwenden. Mit meiner Idee wollte ich einen Aspekt zeigen, wie ich mir eine sinnvolle Anwendung vorstellen kann. Die zugrunde liegenden Bilder bleiben aber mit Hand gemalt.

      1. klotylda avatar

        Als ich über den Geist der Romantik schrieb, meinte ich natürlich eine bestimmte Einstellung zur Welt, keine Sentimentalität. Also die Überwindung von Schwellen, die von den meisten als unüberwindbare Schwellen angesehen werden. Ich sehe auch die Rolle der künstlichen Intelligenz in erster Linie als ein subsidiäres Instrument für die menschliche Kreativität – eine Art ehemaliger Assistent des Meisters. Für Menschen, die unter einer Art von Funktionsstörung leiden, ist KI eine Chance, viele blockierte Talente zu entwickeln. Die eigentliche Ära der künstlichen Intelligenz, d. h. die Zeit, in der ihre Entwicklung und ihr weit verbreiteter Einsatz ein solches Ausmaß annehmen werden, dass sie bei fast jeder Art von menschlicher kreativer Arbeit eine Rolle spielen wird, liegt noch vor uns. Wenn man die Geschichte anderer bahnbrechender Erfindungen nur oberflächlich verfolgt, so verging zwischen ihrer Erfindung und dem Zeitpunkt, an dem sie in einem solchen Ausmaß angewandt wurden, dass sie unsere Realität dauerhaft veränderten, in der Regel ein Zeitraum von mehreren Jahrzehnten, mindestens aber eine Generation. Es gibt also keinen Grund, der Hysterie der Paranoiker nachzugeben, die behaupten, dass die künstliche Intelligenz uns vernichten wird. Wenn uns jemand Angst macht, hat er in der Regel schlechte Absichten und will uns etwas sehr Wertvolles wegnehmen. Das Ende des Projekts gefällt mir sehr gut, ich hoffe, es bleibt so. Es ist wahr: Das Ende ist nur der Anfang von etwas Neuem.

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Vielen Dank fuer Ihre wertvolle Stellungnahme! “Subsidiäres Instrument für die menschliche Kreativität” gefaellt mir sehr gut! Sie haben voellig Recht, was den Zeitrahmen von den ersten Schritte bis zum ausgereiften Produkt betrifft. Und genauso, was das Vorenthalten betrifft. Herr Elon M. forderte erst kürzlich vehement, man solle KI vorerst stoppen – und gestern lese ich, dass er klammheimlich an einem KI Unternehmen bastelt. Und die Menge hat ohnehin immer gleich reagiert, beim Automobil, beim Kino, beim Internet….
        Welches Potential KI hat, zeigt sich allein schon, wenn man in letzter Zeit die Aktienkurse der Unternehmen ansieht, die zu den Gewinnern zählen werden. Zudem braucht die Wirtschaft etwas Neues, um nicht zum Stagnieren zu kommen….
        Aber ich hatte natuerlich nur den Bereich Kunst angedacht. Herzliche Gruesse aus Wien! f

  14. Steven McCabe avatar

    Monumental! Congratulations on a fantastic concept and amazing artwork to deliver the project. Quite a unique concept! Best wishes!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much, Steve! Unique for sure 🙂 But maybe too weird. But there’s enough boring stuff everywhere anyway…

  15. Edith avatar

    Dem Projekt von dir…

    Dinge bekommen die Zeit die sie brauchen. Für Hast und Ungeduld gibt es keinen Grund.
    Wagners Musik schwingt auf.
    Ich bin in einer Blase unter Wasser gefangen, deinen Bildern gleich.
    Haltloses Fallen, dann Schweben.
    Bombastisch, Grandioses trifft mich.
    Zinkweiß leuchtet mir aus allem Blau entgegen.
    Ich steige auf aus Grundes Tiefe.
    Wohin die Musik auch gleitet,
    deine Bilder sind darin eingeschrieben.
    Sie glitzern glasig wie Tränen
    in einem Raum zwischen Himmel und Meer.
    … von mir

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Welch Freude bereiten Dein Kommentar und Deine Beobachtungen! Vielen Dank! Es ist fuer mich nicht immer klar, ob das Zeug, das ich male, auch nur halbwegs bei den Lesern ankommt. Oft verpacke so viel an Ideen, die ob der Heftigkeit der Malweise nicht auf den ersten Blick erkennbar sind. Du, mit einer Kuenstlerseele, liest sie natuerlich wie Erzaehlungen oder Gedichte und das freut mich sehr.

      1. Edith avatar

        Bei dem, der sich darauf einlässt, kommt deine Malerei, deine Kunst an. Mach weiter so und zweifle nie!!!

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Danke, Meisterin des Aufmunterns 🙂🙏☀️


    Impressive work and concept! Above all, I love the colour richness and composition. I had this tab open on y laptop since you published this post and I keep going back and looking at the paintings. The progression of colour amazes me.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much! Your kind words make me feel very happy!

  17. ledrakenoir avatar

    Wonderful, so fascinating. 🙂

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much 🙏😊

      1. ledrakenoir avatar

        My pleasure. 🙂

  18. Tom Crossley avatar

    These paintings are just so good! Wow!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much, Tom, for your encouraging words 🙏☀️

      1. Tom Crossley avatar

        No problem!

  19. Mike and Kellye Hefner avatar

    What a brilliant concept! I can imagine being in a planetarium-type setting being surrounded by your stunning paintings and beautiful music to accompany them.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you Mike! I’m glad you like the idea! Of course I could only roughly outline the idea in this short article, but I think the basic idea is clear. In 2 days I will have a conversation with a specialist. to clarify whether the whole thing has any chance of being implemented – some time in the far future 🙂

  20. Enviroart avatar

    This is simply amazing!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much for your kind words!

  21. stockdalewolfe avatar

    Gorgeous paintings and a riot of color!!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much for your encouraging words ☺️🙏

  22. rabirius avatar

    Amazing. I really like how you can see that the picture is getting more and more abstract.
    And I cannot really post with my WP profile. Sometimes it is acting up…

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much for your encouraging words 😊🙏 I had quite a few problems too with WP but got them solved with the help of admins. If you have not yet contacted them it might be worth a try. Good luck 🍀

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