A whispering sea. Shadows wander along the beach in the cold light of dawn. To leave, or to be left by someone. Life changes forever.

In Gravity of Life (GoL) OI creates opera together with choirs and conductors, intertwining opera improvisation and new music by the composer Ulrika Emanuelsson. Every performance starts the same, and then a unique opera emerges, using the audience’s suggestions as starting point. Working with choirs came as an idea from project leader and producer Mette af Klint, who together with me developed the project.  I was responsible for developing artistic methods. Oi meets the choirs for a two-day work shop, resulting in an opera performance on the second evening. GoL has been performed with seven choirs in Lund and the Stockholm regions 2016-17.

The idea of Gravity of Life was to find a theme that allowed to adress how we as humans deal with difficult situations and periods in life that may risk to know us down, and the choices we make in order to strive on. It emanated from experiences of loss and sorrow in my personal life during the last couple of years. I chose the concept gravity, both referring to the meaning severe, or serious, and the physical metaphor of gravity and how bodies are affected by this physical force. We aimed to investigate how we as improviser in OI could find ways of developing a platform for exploring musico-dramatic improvisation methods, collaborating with i) a composer in the making of new music and ii) choirs of varied levels. In this way we searched for new ways of interacting with other actors in the music field. For the first time OI decided to invite a composer in a collaborative project, Ulrika Emanuelsson.

Musical and dramatic concept

During the work shops, the OI members had different areas of responsibility. We developed a schedule for the work shop sessions, resulting in an outline of the dramaturgy of the performance with four scenes using different opera improvisation techniques for the choirs, where the order of the techniques was set on beforehand and written down on the sides of the stage. The conductor was free to arrange parts of the improvisations live, regarding choice of voices and dynamics. Light designer was Kristofer Langerbeck (GoL I-IV) and Martin Svensson (Gol V). Below is the set up from the performance in Hjorthagen on 4th December 2016.

Movements and techniques

Emanuelsson: Movement 1
Choir opera improvisation:Soundscapes
Solo opera improvisation scenes
Choir opera improvisation:Give & take with chairs
Solo opera improvisation scenes
Aria with choir improvisationFollow the leader
Solo opera improvisation scenes
Emanuelsson: Movement 2
Choir opera improvisation:I am
Solo opera improvisation scenes
Emanuelsson: Movement 3

During the performance, the conductor showed a sign to the choir with the opera improvisation technique or composed movement. The reason for this was twofold:

i) The choir singers were to shift between performing in a partly improvised choreography in the composed parts and improvise freely according to very recently (the day before performance) learnt agreements in the opera improvisation parts.  We considered it important to share an image of the dramaturgical set up, for all to know when to focus on what.

ii) In contrast to LM (2014, 2016) there were more improvised than composed parts, and the conductor was invited to conduct parts of the improvisations. This gave a lot of responsibility to the conductor, and since the stage light was not so strong, it was not possible for her/him to have eye contact with Gregor, who plays an important part in developing the musical dramaturgy.