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Whatever preconceptions you may have about opera, it’s time to leave them at the door. In honor of their 50th anniversary, the Dutch National Opera is presenting Opera Forward Festival (OFF), an 11-day series about the future of opera. Featuring four fully-staged productions as well as concerts, workshops, exhibitions and lectures, OFF is not just about opera, but about presenting it like you’ve never seen it before. And with an art form that has a performance history spanning hundreds of years, festivals like this one can be a great way to explore what opera can sound like in the 21st century.
Here are our picks for the must-see opera events at OFF this year.
Only the Sound Remains: March 15, 19, 22 & 24
One of two mainstage productions at the National Opera, Only the Sound Remains is probably the most highly-anticipated show of the festival, and with good reason. The premiere production brings together two of the biggest names in contemporary music, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and American director Peter Sellars. Together they will present a duo of one-act operas inspired by the play of light and darkness in Japanese Nôh theatre. Details here.
Colin Self at OFF x The Rest Is Noise: March 19
In collaboration with the Muziekgebouw’s series The Rest Is Noise, OFF will invite singer/performer/artist Colin Self to the National Opera House for a late-night set on March 19. Influenced by queer theory, ritual and futuristic sound design, Self—who is known for his unique blend of onstage physicality and electronically-processed vocals—will explore the transformative potential of the human voice. More info (in Dutch) can be found here.
OFF x FIBER: March 17
OFF has joined forces with FIBER—Amsterdam’s festival of audiovisual art, digital culture and music—for an evening of discussion on the relationship between opera and technology. Featuring an international panel of researchers and artists, the discussion evening will delve into the future of opera in our digital, technology-saturated world. Details (in Dutch, though the discussion will be in English) here.
Blank Out: March 20, 21 & 25
Dutch composer/director Michel van der Aa is known for creating unusual, multidisciplinary takes on music theatre, and Blank Out, playing at the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, is no different. Based on the work of South African poet Ingrid Jonker, the show is a chamber opera for soprano and 3D film (yes, that’s right). With Michel van der Aa’s experimentation with 3D filming techniques, as well as the influence of pop and electronic music in his work, Blank Out is one to mark on your calendar. Details here.
As a brand-new initiative in the city, OFF seems determined to make a statement about the possibilities of opera in today’s world. They’re out to prove that contemporary opera is as full of artistic potential as ever—and from the look of their programming, their argument is a strong one.
Feature image by Petrovsky & Ramone, photo by Walter Wlodarczyk.
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