A Quick Trip to Vienna


Rachel Graham, TiPP Projects Director (Music) has just returned from an invigorating weekend in Vienna to visit a project we hope to bring to the UK. Read more here.

So I’m sat in the departure lounge of Vienna International Airport after two incredibly exciting, interesting, scary, daunting and tiring days. I’ve been here to meet a collective of organisations from across Europe who have been brought together to experiment with new ways of performing chamber opera, and TiPP has been invited to be a part of the project.

In autumn last year we received an email from an opera company in Milan, they were developing a multimedia performance of Dante’s La Divinia Comedia and wanted to take it into prisons. ‘Sounds bonkers’ we said, ‘let’s chat to them’! Several Skype calls later we concluded that it was truly bonkers but that we were in!

The  La Divinia Comedia  cube set

The performance is truly multimedia, a vocalist inside a four-metre square mesh cube onto which and out of which film footage is projected as scenes. The voice is amplified and along with the music is moved around various speakers in the space which serves to enhance the unsettling text. And everyone involved is treated as a performer; the female vocalist, composer, film and effects specialist and lighting designer all sit at a round table along with the artistic director who actually conducts them all along with the male vocalist inside the cube. It’s an immersive and intimate experience which had a powerful effect on the audience.

And they want to take that into prisons.

The first task is going to be the logistic. Getting even just a small portable CD player into a prison requires a few weeks notice and a form that asks for your goldfish’s maiden name. Itemising every single cable and light bulb is going to be a long task. But it will be worth it.

The second task will be in connecting the audience to the performance. Dante’s story of the journey from hell, through purgatory and into heaven has obvious parallels and resonances with many prisoners but the text is ancient Italian and with little ‘action’ that tells the story, familiarisation with the story and links to key signposts within the performance are going to be key.

If we can get to that point, then we can as a final step begin to work with the prisoners to develop their own creative responses to the text and the performance, a chance for them to tell their own stories.

We’re proposing a series of workshops and wrap around materials to do this, what they will look like at this stage I have no idea! But my flight home was just canceled so I suppose I have some time to sit and figure that out!

Rachel Graham

Rachel Graham