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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

THE SCOOP | COC Announces Digital Stage Initiative With The National Ballet And Sheridan College

By Anya Wassenberg on August 28, 2019

“The COC recognizes that we, as a performing arts organization, are not an island,” says Canadian Opera Company General Director, Alexander Neef, on the launch of the Digital Stage.

The Digital Stage, COC
The Canadian Opera Company has embarked on an innovative project called the Digital Stage, to explore new and collaborative approaches to digital technology in the arts. (Photo courtesy of the Canadian Opera Company)

Digital technology is often cast as the villain when it comes to classical music and many other art forms, luring potential new audience members away from live concerts which are the lifeblood of the art. Forward-thinking arts organizations, however, are finding ways to harness the power of technology to make that concert experience even more exciting and immersive.

The Canadian Opera Company (COC), in partnership with The National Ballet of Canada (NBoC) and Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT) at Sheridan College, announced the Digital Stage initiative in spring of this year.

Digital Stage is a long-term project, with the initial goal of exploring the ways that digital technology can be used to present performing arts. Stakeholders from arts companies to audience members will be consulted about what directions that technology can take.  COC General Director, Alexander Neef, commented in a media release.

“The COC recognizes that we, as a performing arts organization, are not an island. As cultural tastes and habits continue to evolve with changing technology, we know that the challenges we face as an opera company echo those faced by others in our industry and that there is a great opportunity to tackle these issues as a sector, through increased knowledge and understanding. We don’t want to simply react to change as it occurs; we want to equip ourselves and our peers with the capacity to adapt and lead through change. I firmly believe that open dialogue and a willingness to explore all possibilities is the only way for the arts to continue resonating with our audiences.”

It’s not just about helping to boost the performing arts industry; it’s about finding new ways to use technology to enhance and augment performance at every level.

Barry Hughson, Executive Director of The National Ballet of Canada, is quoted in a media release. “The Digital Stage project allows us, and our peers, to explore the boundless possibilities offered by digital technology and to learn how it can be incorporated into every facet of our work — from the stage, to the studio, to our administration. Embracing technology and innovation is vital to keeping the arts relevant, accessible and connected to our community.”

The Sheridan team will work under John Helliker, Dean of Innovation, involving SIRT as well as the college’s Canadian Musical Theatre Project, along with faculty and students in various programs through the Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design.

The COC and NBoC join performing arts organizations around the world who are jumping into the digital world with gusto with interesting results. The Finnish National Opera and Ballet have launched a similar project called Opera Beyond, and the UK’s Royal Opera House has developed an app and digital toolkit for future projects, with open source programs and open data to encourage the spread of the information.

There are programs like the Onstage app, which give opera-goers a bundle of features on their smartphones, including digital binoculars, a wealth of information about the performance and performers, choice of views from various cameras situated throughout the venue, and more.

The Digital Stage project will progress in stages. The first stage — a comprehensive scan of the performing arts sector and beyond — is already in the works. KerrSmith Design, an award-winning Toronto-based research firm with a client list that includes MoMA, the Smithsonian, and Harvard University, among others, is well into the process of researching the intersection of digital tech and performing arts with a view to finding best practices as well as identifying challenges and barriers.

The next stage will involve taking the knowledge gleaned and starting to put it into practice. Various pilot projects will be launched, testing digital technology in performance in real-time, and assessing the results.

The evaluation will take Digital Stage into the third step of the process, with symposiums and talks around both the existing situation, and the new information that comes from stage 2. The first symposium is scheduled for October 2, 2019, at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre in Toronto.

Any interested industry groups and arts organizations who want to register for the October symposium can contact digitalstage@coc.ca or visit DigitalStage.ca.

LUDWIG VAN TORONTO

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Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
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Follow me

Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
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