As performing arts organizations worldwide struggle to schedule live performance seasons in the midst of a global pandemic, DC’s IN Series leads the charge onto the digital stage by programming an entirely virtual season of opera-theater, designed to be experienced from the comfort and safety of home. Artistic Director Timothy Nelson announced this dramatic innovation Friday, May 1, the date that was originally slated for IN Series’ annual gala. IN Series will roll out specific details of the season through the coming months, culminating in the unveiling of a Digital Opera House in July.
In a video statement released to patrons, Nelson acknowledged the paralyzing uncertainty facing the performing arts, stating: “This is a time for bold creativity, and above all else, optimism. We have taken the plunge and scrapped almost the entire season we had planned for next year, throwing out our plan and furiously embarking on imagining a new season. This reimagining responds to—and is in conversation with—our collective experience.”
Calling to mind the company’s mission and vision, Nelson stressed his commitment to accessibility and inclusion by announcing that the upcoming season would be offered free of charge. An opera house without walls, he posits, will make this work “accessible to multitudes around the world in a way we could never have imagined before.” While he laments that the virtual season will delay the launch of the Cardwell-Dawson Resident Artist Program for exceptional young singers of color, Nelson has already offered the extraordinary quartet of artists additional performance opportunities within the new framework.
Nelson emphasizes that this will not be “opera as usual, shrunk down to the small screen.” IN Series’ expanded season will include twelve premieres, feature-length films, opera-shorts, episodic series, and audio experiences in the style of radio plays, released periodically. Their Technology as an Operatic Medium initiative will feature virtual reality experiences, interactive opera inspired by gaming technology, and other 21st-century content. Unexpected Collaborations will produce offerings between filmmakers, programmers, animators, movie theaters, radio stations, audio artists, dancers, singers, actors, writers, and local and global creators. Subscriptions, available for purchase in June, will entitle the holder to early and extended access to all creative content in the new Virtual Opera House, plus additional monthly concerts, invitations to online artist receptions, and access to live events and premiere parties (when possible).
Nelson’s message is overwhelmingly optimistic. He sees “a uniquely powerful moment to reach wider audiences and to make a difference in their lives” in this time of insecurity, and he ends by assuring audiences that “this fully digital season is a good thing. It allows us to expand our reach infinitely—sharing what we love, what moves us, what unites us, and who we are, with the broadest possible audience.”
IN Series is the standard bearer for innovative opera theater in Washington, DC. Working with local artists and diverse communities worldwide to create novel works grounded in opera and song, they challenge and reimagine these forms, folding in an expanding range of aesthetic and cultural traditions. IN Series envisions a thriving global community in which opera is a fully integrated and essential part of collective conversation. In picturing the journey to this end, IN Series is a change-maker—a force that, with each groundbreaking production and outreach event, radically transforms perceptions of the “who,” “what,” “where,” and “why” of opera: who gets to make opera and for whom is it made; what is defined as an operatic experience; where operas take place; why we make opera; and why opera matters.
Tax-deductible contributions can be made at the In Series website.