Thursday, 23 February 2012

Opera's Future is Miniature

English National Opera today have announced their intention to get out and find interesting new talent for creating opera. The venture is called Mini Operas. They're going to do it online, with a competitive edge, asking for submissions from 'the three disciplines'. Though one might make the assumption that these are writing the music, writing the text and directing, the final discipline is in fact given as film making (a reasonable distinction from directing, given that the completed operatics will be uploaded for video view).

So yes, despite the finished work not being acoustic, doing everything online is a perfectly reasonable idea. It means the reach is large, people who want to work together will have the competition as a forum for finding one another, and the entries will necessarily be shorter than the typical two hour opus (both for practicalities of uploading and judging, one expects).

Moreover, Mini Operas streamlines nicely with the current vogue for producing scaled-back work. The stuttering success of OperaUpClose, the magazine-style festivals of new work in Tête à Tête and Grimeborn and the Exposure and Opera Shots showcasing at the Royal Opera House are all making an effort to put on new work, often in chunks that are not only manageable for the (modern, shorter attention-span) audience but also for the company's increasingly finite resources.

It should be noted that Tête à Tête are market-leading here. The Exposure evening I attended recently at the Royal Opera House was essentially a franchise of Tête à Tête work, and a series of new opera to be shown at the Royal College Of Music in May, Great Expectations, is also in conjunction with this company.

All this interest follows in the community-marketing opportunities that social media and media sharing foster. The likes of the Mark Ravenhill/YouTube/Guardian film short competition or Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir performance of one of his works bears testament to its effectiveness at convening enthusiasm, at least. One also bears in mind that the content overlaps too - Nico Muhly's recent co-production with ENO, Two Boys, is partially set in the social networking hinterland and the production itself had spectacaular video effects projected onto the set. Muhly will be assessing entries to the project (alongside Will Self and Terry Gilliam).

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