The Royal Opera announces 8bit – a series of 8 free digital operatic experiences, bringing together some of the most innovative contemporary artists
On Friday 30 April at 7pm GMT we are excited to present 8bit – a series of eight newly commissioned, experimental experiences of digital opera – bringing together some of the most innovative contemporary artists.
Available for free, and hosted across Facebook, YouTube and Instagram – the eight short ‘bits’ comprise six short films, one audio performance and a web browser experiment, presenting well-loved repertory in ways audiences will never have experienced them before, as well as world premieres of new short works.
Created in response to the impact of Covid-19 on the arts (and not least the freelance community), ROH Director of Opera, Oliver Mears, and Creative Producer Kate Wyatt and Producer Rachel Caccia commissioned an international cohort of collaborators who straddle both opera and technology to create short works of digital opera.
Oliver Mears, Director of The Royal Opera explains: “At a time when it is so hard to work together in the same place, let alone the same time, we have been forced to adapt and work in different ways. 8bit links material that spans platforms and genres in an audio and visual moment of fabulous variety and eclecticism – challenging the stereotypes associated with opera.”
Audiences will be directed to a specially curated hub on the ROH website, where they will be guided through a global musical journey, from Berlin to Ellis Island and back to Covent Garden. Through music and sound-driven performance, viewers will be encouraged to travel across a digital landscape and experience classical music and opera in stunning new ways.
Canadian-born director and dramaturg Patrick Eakin Young has created an ‘Instagram opera’ titled Among The Flowers – featuring a new composition by Matt Huxley, with vocals by Lucy Goddard. Patrick Eakin Young says: “During the past year, through all the lockdowns, Instagram has been one of my main conduits to the outside world. I thought: what would it be like if I created an opera specifically for it? What would that look and sound like? What’s so fascinating is that digital opera may change depending on the format that it’s in, but it’s still opera: it’s still about storytelling, emotion and music.”
Katie Mitchell returns to ROH with a new collaboration with Grant Gee – a five-minute film to the soundtrack of Anna Meredith’s ‘Heal You’ – featuring the voluntary work of ROH Chorister Amanda Baldwin at a London vaccination centre. The piece “celebrates the vaccination rollout and the brilliance of women’s contribution to that process,” explains Katie Mitchell.
German conductor and curator André de Ridder and soprano Katherine Manley collaborate on OVER/ UNDER GROUND – where a single hand-held camera follows Katherine as she moves around public spaces in Berlin, taking the operatic voice (having been forced) out of its usual context performing ‘Verso già l‘alma col sangue’ from Handel’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo.
“I’ve always been interested in the possibilities of film with operatic content, beyond the filming of conventionally staged performances. The pandemic has furthered that interest and our little film is an exploration of that. We combined the contemporary sounds of Mouse On Mars’ ‘sonic auteur’ Jan St. Werner with a classic Baroque aria which kind of gets lost over and underground the streets of Berlin, looking to find a place outside the theatre. We found new meaning in Aci’s passage into isolation but also a mysterious, possible manifestation of a relationship triggered by a meeting with a stranger, maybe Galatea?” says André de Ridder.
Director and choreographer, Anna Morrissey’s All Together Alone, sees dancers of The Royal Ballet responding unchoreographed to a reworked version of ‘Ebben’ from Catalani’s La Wally by Ben and Max Ringham, with vocals by Jette Parker Young Artist Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha.
Echoes at the gate, a film by multidisciplinary video designer Akhila Krishnan, explores themes of immigration, identity and language, with soundtrack of ‘Akh! istomilas ya gorem‘ from Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. Akhila Krishnan notes: “The main thinking behind this idea is to show that this music (that might seem to be very distanced/removed) for a young audience member actually speaks of universal, relevant and current ideas and themes.”
Making her ROH debut, violinist, collaborator and music director Rakhi Singh has crafted a music video titled – FFAALL – set to three different pieces of music by Rakhi herself, Seb Gainsborough and Nicola Matteis. Filmed in different spaces at the ROH during lockdown, the piece features Salford-based artist Blackhaine whose practice concerns deconstructive and exhaustive technique contained within sound, film and movement.
Theatre and opera director Elayce Ismail has worked with composer John Barber to create Our Dark Side and The Moon: a night-time duet, a meditative guided listening, reflecting on our relationship with the Moon. With spoken narration by Elayce and vocals by Nazan Fikret, the listener is invited to take their device to a window or outside space to watch the moon as they listen.
Elayce explains, “We made this audio piece for the end of lockdown as a bridge between the world inside your home and the world outside. Inspired by the Moon and recent Mars landings, and reflecting on the human desire to explore, exploit and colonise, this night time duet asks you to look, to listen, to dream and to question.”
Concluding the experience, artist-led creative production company Dumbworld have crafted an interactive web-based opera experience titled Fatal System Error, following the last digital breaths of a web bot. Featuring a new composition by Brian Irvine, performed by Alexandra Lowe (JPYA) and The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.