VOPERA: The Virtual Opera Project, announces its inaugural production of Maurice Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) under the baton of Lee Reynolds (ROH Linbury Theatre, Opéra de Monte Carlo, Nederlandse Reisopera, Associate Director: National Youth Orchestra), with premiere set for 16 November 2020 at 8pm (UK time).

Coming to life as a digital creation, VOPERA’s production is a world-first; global Zoom auditions and rehearsals, socially distanced orchestral studio recording, individually captured audio recordings, hand-drawn set and costumes, and body-double acting using a homemade green-screen studio overlaid with the recorded cast’s singing faces.

Appearing with the LPO is a cast of over 80 singers. The role of L’Enfant is sung by Australian mezzo-soprano Emily Edmonds (L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, Komische Oper Berlin, and Katya KabanovaManon LescautMadama ButterflyDon Carlo, Royal Opera House Covent Garden).

Karen Cargill (La Damnation de Faust, DSO Berlin, Elgar Sea Pictures, Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bach B minor Mass, Philadelphia Orchestra, Bluebeard’s Castle, Opera North and London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle) takes the role of Maman, while Michael Sumuel (Le Nozze di Figaro, San Francisco Opera, Carmen, Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, Agrippina, Metropolitan Opera) plays Un Arbre.

In this highly uncertain time for the arts industry, VOPERA has enabled over 135 freelance musicians, artists, creatives, technicians, producers and administrators from around the world to be able to do their jobs again and to receive a fee. With theatres and opera houses laying dark, and artists unable to perform in traditional ways, this project is a platform for many to practise and perform in an innovative new way.

VOPERA founder and director, Rachael Hewer (Glyndebourne, Opera Holland Park, winner at the International Awards for Young Opera Directors, Moscow) said:
I wanted to make something that people can be actively and creatively involved in. We are all worried about the pressures – both health-related and financial – that the pandemic has put us under, but fundamentally the emotional impact of not working and not making music is being underestimated. I can do something about that. This project involves dozens of artists working individually and together. Singers need to sing, players need to play, and I can make that possible.”

In direct response to the current Covid situation and its effects on artists’ mental health, VOPERA has a group of qualified mental health practitioners on hand throughout the production process, so that if anyone needs support, it is there for them: “I realise that “returning to performing” is going to present its own challenges and I am prepared for that.” added Hewer.

Conductor, Lee Reynolds, created a specially reduced arrangement of Ravel’s music to enable the Orchestra to record the score in line with Covid-19 restrictions, reworking Ravel’s extraordinary opera for an orchestral ensemble of 27 musicians:
“We’ve all faced a huge challenge in discovering how musicians, spread thousands of miles apart, can make meaningful music together, and this brilliantly ambitious project has demanded solutions that none of us could have dreamed of only months ago. From the smallest steps like refining how to share musical ideas, rehearse and do amazing things over an internet connection from half a planet away, right up to our 360º orchestral recording layout, this project has proven that with enough determination and pioneering creativity, opera can happen, even in these extraordinary times.” 

LPO’s Chief Executive David Burke, spoke about the collaboration:
“It is especially rewarding for all of us at the LPO to be collaborating with VOPERA on this project, given the current restrictive situation in the arts. It’s an opportunity for the Orchestra to flex its muscles in the digital space, and with our ability to rehearse and record at a social distance, we are delighted to be able to continue to support projects such as this one. I am excited to see how the finished production comes together.”

VOPERA’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges premieres on 16 November 2020 at 8pm (UK time) on the LPO’s YouTube channel, and will be available to stream free of charge from anywhere in the world for 30 days.

@VOpera20 | @LPOrchestra