Press release February 11, 2020

The ground-breaking Opera Beyond project by the Finnish National Opera and Ballet is a unique collision between performing arts and emerging technologies. The project’s disruptive approach is raising an increasing amount of international interest. It has recently given rise to collaboration between the global research and development laboratory Nokia Bell Labs and the Finnish National Opera. The project culminates in the Opera Beyond Conference in May, which brings the world’s leading arts and technology professionals to Helsinki. 

Opera Beyond, which explores the opportunities for emerging technologies to evolve performing arts, has prompted the multiple Nobel-award winning Nokia Bell Labs to expand its collaboration base in Finland. The collaboration between the Finnish National Opera and Ballet is part of Nokia Bell Labs’ Experiments in Arts and Technology (E.A.T.) lab, in which artists and Nokia Bell Labs engineers and scientists combine their efforts to discover new possibilities in human communication and connection. In particular, the artist and the opera will have access to Nokia’s world leading audio visual technology and innovations to enable immersive experiences and human connection beyond that possible today. 

“The Opera Beyond project is a critical undertaking bringing together the fields of art and technology. The Finnish National Opera and Ballet’s vision for the future of the opera resonated strongly with our vision within E.A.T. It is our mission to connect people emotionally and to break down barriers between people and enable deeper levels of connection and understanding. Collaborating with the Finnish National Opera is the perfect place to develop these new solutions”, says Domhnaill Hernon, Head of Experiments in Arts and Technology at Nokia Bell Labs. 

In tandem with the collaboration, Nokia Bell Labs is also launching its first ever artist-in-residence programme in the Nordic countries, with the media artist Kalle Rasinkangas as the region’s first guest artist. As a member of a community of top-tier researchers, he will be able to make the most of Nokia Bell Labs’ advanced technology at its Espoo and Tampere premises. He will be working on an interactive installation, which will be showcased at the international Opera Beyond conference in May. 

”Opera as an artistic genre is continuously evolving and changing. We are always on the lookout for new methods to enhance the opera experience. Opera Beyond is an exploration that gives rise to new productions, pioneering collaboration, and concrete tools for combining the arts and technology. At its best, it will enrich our genres and create an entirely new universe of experiences. Collaboration with such a visionary organisation like Nokia Bell Labs is a fantastic opportunity for the Finnish National Opera”, says Lilli Paasikivi, Artistic Director of the Opera.

The International Opera Beyond conference will take place in May

In the coming spring, from 25 to 26 May, Opera Beyond will gather arts and technology wizards and visionaries in a two-day conference in Helsinki. The event will be one-of-a-kind in all of Europe. The participants include Head of Digital Development for the National Theatre in London Toby Coffey, 3D audio researcher for the IRCAM institute for science Marcus Noisternig, Royal Opera House Head of Audience Labs Annette Mees, award-winning creator of the Where Thoughts Go virtual reality experience Lucas Rizzotto, and researcher and designer of mixed reality based theatrical experiences Joris Weijdom.

The conference will present a new XR technology based simulation tool for performance arts productions and the event industry. The tool will enable international work groups to meet virtually in a genuine stage setting, regardless of where in the world they are based. 

Laila, an interactive work by composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, dramaturg Paula Vesala and Ekho Collective will premiere in June. Further information about schedules and tickets will be released during April at operabeyond.com.

Further information

About Nokia Bell Labs

Nokia Bell Labs is the world-renowned industrial research arm of Nokia. Over its more than 90-year history, Bell Labs has invented many of the foundational technologies that underpin information and communications networks and all digital devices and systems. This research has resulted in 9 Nobel Prizes, three Turing Awards, three Japan Prizes, a plethora of National Medals of Science and Engineering, as well as three Emmys, two Grammys and an Oscar for technical innovations. For more information, visit bell-labs.com.

Domhnaill Hernon acts as an advisor for Opera Beyond, and Nokia Bell Labs is a sponsor at the spring 2020 conference.

The Opera Beyond conference 25 to 26 May 2020

The Opera Beyond conference will be an inspiring meeting place where arts and emerging technologies collide. It will open up new possibilities by breaking the boundaries between industries, conventions, cultures and individuals. The brightest minds in the arts and technology will meet at the Opera House in Helsinki. Tickets are available now at operabeyond.com

The XR Production Simulation tool

Together with Varjo, developer for virtual and mixed reality tools and Zoan, the virtual reality studio, Opera Beyond is developing an XR production simulation tool for the performing arts and events industry. By enabling the simulation of artistic designs in a virtual world, the tool will enhance the efficiency of production work and improve communication between the various stakeholders (director, set designer, lighting designer, producer etc.). It will allow international work groups to come together in an authentic stage setting, regardless of where its members are based. This will pave the way, for instance, for more international collaborations between opera houses.

The XR Production Simulation tool is being developed in open cooperation with Finnish and international operators in the industry.  operabeyond.com/xr-production-simulation

The Opera Beyond project is supported by the Jane and Aatos Erkko foundation.

For more information and interview requests, please contact:

Jenni Pöyry, jenni@mellakkahelsinki.fi, +358 50 343 2061
Johanna Järventaus, johanna@aprilstories.fi, +358 40 156 1010