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The Finnish National Opera and Ballet’s XR Stage Project receives an international grant

The Finnish National Opera and Ballet’s XR Stage Project has received the international FEDORA Next Stage Grant of €60,000. The XR Stage Project is part of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet’s Opera Beyond project. The grant recipients were announced on 17 June at The Opera Europa Spring Conference in Prague.

In 2021, FEDORA and Opera Europa launched the Next Stage Initiative to trigger change and recovery in the opera and dance sector. This initiative provides financial support and skills development to boost innovation through sustainability, inclusivity and digital transformation. The Next Stage Grants give financial support for projects that help create new industry standards and opportunities. The jury evaluates how innovative, collaborative, transformative, feasible and scalable the projects are. Moreover, through the Next Stage Forums, professional development and training for the management and artistic teams enhances knowledge sharing and peer-learning in the fields.

”The XR Stage Design Platform strengthens the planning process of stage productions. The sharp 3D image of the stage, set in a custom virtual space within each venue, is informative and adaptable and ensures an artistically and technically viable end result. The creative team can explore and find inspiration in the virtual space in the early part of the artistic planning process. Performers, too, can study the stage in advance. This empowers their performance, saves stage rehearsal time, and improves occupational safety. It’s truly exciting to be part of a development process that benefits us all, from designers to performers to technical staff and the audience,” Lilli Paasikivi, the Artistic Director of the Finnish National Opera says.

”From a sustainability point of view, the virtual model allows artistic teams based in different countries to work together, considerably reducing the need for travel. This also improves the reliability of final plans, preventing the production of unnecessary sets and last minute changes. This means less wasted materials and less work,” adds Tapio Säkkinen, Head of Set Workshop and Environmental Head at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet.

The XR Stage Project is part of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet’s Opera Beyond project launched in 2018. The project aims to enhance performing arts experiences and to make the most of new technologies in opera and ballet. Opera Beyond is developing the XR Stage Design Platform together with the virtual and mixed reality tools producer Varjo and virtual reality studio Zoan. The XR Stage Design Platform is being developed in open cooperation with Finnish and international actors in the industry.

This new technology will be seen in action on stage as part of the opera production CircOpera 2.0, premiering at the Finnish National Opera in November 2022. Performances take the audience on an adventurous journey of opera classics, modern circus and immersive technology. The evening is completed with the Finnish National Opera and Ballet’s first ever virtual visiting artist – a dancing and singing avatar – and the performers’ movements creating astonishing visual effects that fill the entire auditorium. The production will be created in collaboration with Opera Beyond’s Open Call 2021 winners Violet Disruption (London, UK) and Vitamin Studio (Valencia, Spain).

The  School Opera 2024 project has also been shortlisted as a top 8 nominee for the FEDORA Education Prize 2022, which is awarded to innovative projects encouraging the involvement of new and wider audiences while fostering social integration amongst the participants. The winner will be announced during the FEDORA Prizes Biennale Award Ceremony, in February 2023, in Paris, France.

The Finnish National Opera and Ballet has produced operas with schoolchildren for more than 20 years. To date, the school operas have given nearly 40,000 children from more than 600 schools around Finland a personal experience of making an opera. The School Opera 2023 is called The Source.