Opera: Isolation Inspires Collaboration
October 19, 2020 In: Sound Bits
Since March, Opera news has focused primarily on what has been lost. Most notably, on September 23, 2020, the Metropolitan Opera announced the cancellation of its entire 2020-21 in-person season, a crippling blow to the musicians of the company and Opera community as a whole.
While live, in-person Opera may be on-hold in the short-term, just two-days after The Met announced its in-person season cancelation, a new virtual opera was released: Eight Songs from Isolation. For the work, which was released by Apple Music and shot exclusively on the iPhone, eight composers were commissioned to compose songs that explore their own personal experiences with isolation. Participating composers include Thomas Adès, Nico Muhly, Helen Grime, Julian Anderson, Huw Watkins, Du Yun, Freya Waley-Cohen, and Illya Demutsky. Each composer selected their own text, ranging from a letter one received during lockdown to the words a man yelled as he held up a Russian Bank during lockdown, and created a musical response to the isolation they were experiencing. Conductor Oliver Zeffman directed the Academy of St Martin in the Fields orchestra to create backing tracks for a slate of eight vocalists—the vocalists participated virtually in the orchestra recording sessions to provide guidance on interpretation. The soloists, including Julia Bullock, Sarah Connolly, Sophie Bevan, performed to the pre-recorded accompaniment in the isolation of their own environments. The iPhone film was directed by Billy Boyd.
While Eight Songs From Isolation focuses on what is lost when we are physically separated, the collaborative element of the project was significant. In total, fifty people worked on the project, with team members in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Also unique is the projects conception in a virtual setting—the intended ‘performance hall’ is the screen and headphones we wear. This project highlight the opportunity present when art is created specifically for our new arts-ecosystem. Our focus on ‘what is lost’ when we move traditional performances into a virtual format might produce a similar effect if we were to move Eight Songs from Isolation from a virtual setting to a live setting.
Watch Eight Songs From Isolation on Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/eight-songs-from-isolation/1532940568