Interdisciplinary seminar in opera creation and music composition for the stage

Fall 2021 - Winter 2022

The interdisciplinary seminars in opera creation and music composition for the stage bring together composition faculty from the Université de Montréal's Faculty of Music (Ana Sokolović), the Department of Art History and Film Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Science (Olivier Asselin), the School of Design in the Faculty of Environmental Design (Marie-Josèphe Vallée), the National Theatre School of Canada (Diane Pavlović and Andrea Romaldi) and the École de danse contemporaine de Montréal (Sarah Bild).

As part of this seminar, we began creating four five-minute operas designed to be performed online. They were created by four interdisciplinary groups of graduate students in composition, literature and/or theater, film and set design. Each team made its own individual creative choices with the support of the research team, but the creative work was also carried out through co-creation workshops bringing together all teams and guest artists.

The short format of the operas enabled a greater number of students to be involved in the creative process, and also proved conducive to an online platform, where temporality differs from the traditional stage. The four operas are united by the metatheatrical theme suggested by the notion of the "river" (fleuve), enabling reflection on the operatic genre and its future. To create these operas, designed for a digital platform, it was necessary to develop a language that borrowed more from cinema and video art, such as the tools of framing and camera movements, determining point of view and point of listening, configuring duration and rhythm not only tied to the music, but also to audio-visual poetics, and the use of the rhetorical possibilities of editing to produce a visual and aural reading of the musical material. In addition, a reflection on the most appropriate mode of dissemination to interrogate the modalities of presence offered by the online platform (standard capture, virtual reality with 360° capture, augmented reality or telepresence) enabled us to achieve the objective of breaking down (or deconstructing) the rigorous structure of the opera on the main stage. 

We also explored other expressive possibilities, such as the use of a vocal technique that takes into account sound diffusion via loudspeakers or headphones, and the development of a sound design that enshrines the voice in sound, noise, speech, and not just music, thus giving it a corporeal, physical, material presence. We sought a way of encoding sound that would recreate a specific spatial experience. Co-creation workshops featuring artists from a range of different cultures and musical traditions ensured great diversity and inclusion in the creative process, with the support of Opéra de Montréal. 

During the creative process, weekly meetings enabled us to identify research questions and practical problems emerging from the process, and to develop answers to them, both in theory and in practice. Our research team’s interdisciplinary expertise enabled us to approach the new issues from a number of angles.