Sandberg Insituut

Notes to Future Students — Director Sjaron Minailo in conversation with Public Sandberg


Lessons in Love and Violence

During the temporary programme Re:master Opera we invite new voices from all disciplines (performing arts, fine arts, film, fashion, design, architecture, etc.) to participate in an examination of the particular strategies of artistic communication that are distinctive to opera—mainly its multidisciplinary structure and the relationships between sound, image, and text within the unique space of unreality. The program is supported by the Dutch National Opera and the Opera Forward Festival. Opera is a time-based artform that is driven by a non-natural progression of time through music, and is therefore by itself a celebration of artificiality: the artificial singing technique, the artificiality of heightened aesthetics, the use of artificial lyrical/poetic language, and the artificial scale of the performance. Bertold Brecht saw in this artificiality a key tool for sociopolitical reflection: “The pleasure grows in proportion to the degree of unreality . . . The irrationality of opera lies in the fact that rational elements are employed, solid reality is aimed at, but at the same time it is all washed out by the music. A dying man is real. If at the same time he sings we are translated to the sphere of the irrational . . . The more unreal and unclear the music can make the reality . . . the more pleasurable the whole process becomes.” Reality, alternative reality, virtual reality, “metaverse,” IRL: our current existence seems infatuated by the distinction between the real and the fictional, and the historical and the virtual. Yet the communicative power of opera is found in the spaces in-between: between music, theater, and visual arts; between complicated ideas and guileless emotions; between love and violence; and between rational and irrational. The public arena which is the opera house is powered by energy that is released through the friction between past and present; between reality and imagination; and between materiality and spirituality. This liminal space is therefore at the core of the course. In this temporary programme we will deep-dive into this operatic in-betweenness and how meaning is created in the spaces between music, image, and text. We will approach opera as concept, practice, and as a recurring and shared point of reference. We will aim at finding original artistic strategies that can imbue this historic artform with fresh impulses. During the two years we will focus on both individual work—in which the participants experiment with different possibilities of applying operatic approach to their own disciplines—as well as group operatic creations, culminating in a larger scale operatic performance to be presented at the Opera Forward Festival 2024.