Building bridges

It’s just over two years since I met the people involved in the Traction co-creation opera projects, in Donostia, at the beginning of February 2020. At the time, the operas themselves seemed a distant, hazy prospect. I’d never had so long to work on a project: I like the energy and focus that comes with speed. Nor had I worked with the large, multidisciplinary teams normally assembled to create an opera, never mind one that also includes innovative technology and research.

And then the pandemic changed it all anyway. No one had tried to co-create an opera in such conditions, and we all had to learn more, faster. Months passed, and now years.

Suddenly, we are there. In the next six months, a series of performances will test everything we have imagined, planned, organised and created. There are dates. There will be audiences.

  • On 19 March 2022, there will be a ‘cabaret participativo‘ in the Foyer Space at the Liceu in Barcelona to present some of the co-creation process involved in La Gata Perduda for an invited audience;
  • On 3 and 4 June 2022, the first two performances of O tempo (Somos Nós) ‘Time (As We Are)’ will take place at Leiria Youth Prison, involving inmates, family members and the community;
  • In August 2022, Irish National Opera will première Out of the Ordinary, which is probably the world’s first co-created community opera in virtual reality;
  • And on 5 and 7 October 2022, La Gata Perduda (The Lost Cat) will open the Liceu Opera House’s 2022-23 season with two main stage performances.

Before then, there remains a mountain of work to do (and afterwards, a daunting quantity of writing up), but the process has its own momentum now, and things are happening very fast. Community projects often seem like building a suspension bridge—there’s a long period of laying foundations, during which it can seem that not much is happening and then suddenly piers rise above the water, cables are stretched and the roadway laid: a new connection exists.

The metaphor is naive (I’m not an engineer) but it is a good description of how community art works. A lot of time, resource and effort has to be invested before the foundations are strong enough to hold up everyone’s hopes and ideas. It’s a unique moment of transformation. I can sense and recognise it, but it’s a mistake to pre-empt or force it. It’s hard to explain because it comes from the unique combination of people, circumstance, time and creativity.

It’s where the Traction operas are now, more or less, the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly (sorry to mix my metaphors), from workshop to stage, from building to performing, from learning to teaching, from working to art. It is still impossible to know the result, but it’s on the way, and that is thrilling,


For a fuller description of the three operas have a look at the project pages on the Traction website:

And here, for no better reason than they’re lovely, is a little glimpse of the treasures held in the Liceu’s costume department that I photographed during our visit there to talk with the team last November.

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