Oct 2016

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Posted in About Speakers 2016

Anat Spiegel & Sjaron Minailo, The story behind the story: Opera in Virtual Reality – an unconventional truth
By: Elise Fikse

When we say VR opera, what do you say? In the very traditional world of opera, singer and composer Anat Spiegel and director Sjaron Minailo created a very un-traditional opera, titled  The transmigration of Morton F. The production was commissioned by the Holland Festival and is described as a fully digital music theatre performance. And if that is not unconventional enough for you: the whole production is to be experienced online.

You can watch it on their website www.mortonf.net. The opera tells the story of Joan, who meets a young boy she believes to be a reincarnation of her father, American composer Morton Feldman. What follows is an Alice in Wonderland-esque whirlwind of sound, visuals, dance and computer gaming.

An unconventional project

Viewers who expect to sit back and passively watch an online video are in for a surprise. You need to actively participate in order to get the full experience. By using your mouse, you can collect bones throughout the story. And in order to reach the final scene, you need to unravel a hidden layer in the video. Minailo and Spiegel got their inspiration from the works of film director David Lynch, science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and composer Morton Feldman, on whose life and works their opera is based upon.

As you might expect from an unconventional project like this, their opera received quite a bit of criticism from within the establishment. “The critique was mostly that it is not a real opera”, says Minailo. But their audience did not share that criticism at all. To Minailo and Spiegel it confirmed the notion that the establishment is merely looking for confirmation. To see more of what they consider opera, or dance or computer gaming.

Pleasure in collaborating in a divided world

According to Spiegel this fits into a broader social trend of wanting to separate everything and divide the world into categories. Especially when that happens in the arts, is has a very limiting effect. Spiegel and Minailo resist against this development. “We are collaborators”, says Spiegel. “We take power and pleasure in collaborating. We find peers and allies and take more risk because of it.”

Anat Spiegel is a composer and vocalist, whose recent work includes the opera Medulla (La Monnaie), the electronic opera Before Present (National Dutch Opera & ADE) and her upcoming solo album ‘South of Somewhere’. Minailo is the director of numerous productions, including the white cube opera trilogy Pornographia-Megalomania-Nostalgia; his adaptation of Malevich’s opera Victory Over the Sun for the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and his ongoing installation Rothko Chapel based on the composition of Morton Feldman.

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