We Have A Castle, Write Us An Opera!

Every good castle needs an opera company, or so the Savonlinna Opera Festival of Finland would lead you to believe.  They have been performing at St. Olaf’s Castle in Savolinna, Finland since 1912.  The festival took a 50-year Hyades between 1917 and 1967, but since its re-inception in the 60’s has been known for its cutting edge works and operatic premiers. Starting in their 2010 season they have decided to push the envelope of innovation even further. The Savolinna Opera Festival is crowdsourcing an opera for its 2012 season through a new project: Opera By You 2012

They are asking the public to write an opera from beginning to end for their 2012 season. They want the world to create everything from the story, set design and costume design to the music and libretto. Savolinna is providing the performers, the crew, and an orchestra; the public is providing the opera.

To my knowledge this has never been done before in Opera and certainly not to this extent. The Savolinna Opera Festival is taking advantage of wreckamovie.com to host their crowdsourcing forum. The site was originally set up for crowdsourcing movies, but also seems to be working well for opera. The only major problem I could find was the lack of music sharing technology on the site. It is still not clear how the composers will collaborate on the score for the opera.

Currently, members are working on the plot synopsis for the opera within the online forum. There are ideas ranging from aliens to sea monsters and insurance salesman to princesses, a true amalgamation of creativity. The opera is still in its early stages of creation and nothing has been set in stone yet.

I was a little frustrated that I could not find any information on how they are going to decide which ideas to use. It is not clear from the website if the management is making those decisions or if the public is going to vote. I am personally a fan of putting as much ownership on the collaborators and public creators as possible. The idea that an opera company would forgo control and perform whatever the public wants to see is very exciting.

Opera By You 2012 has the potential to change the world of opera and set a new benchmark for the use of technology in the ‘high arts’. This project is breaking many of the stereotypes typically associated with this art form and opening opera to a much wider audience. Opera By You 2012 is not about tradition or ‘the classics’, it is about making new art and opening up an opportunity for the masses to interact with opera.

Technology is helping this arts organization reach out to the world and break down some of the barriers that keep many people away from the classical music realm. Crowdsourcing taps the collective creativity of everyone involved and creates a product that is not only designed for an audience, but by them. This type of innovation is what keeps the arts current in our society. It will be very interesting to see how this opera materializes and the impacts that it will have on the world of opera.