Opera.Connect: Vilnius, a City of Opera

Discover the Lithuanian capital as an opera city while Vilnius celebrates its 700th anniversary. For three years until 2023, the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, together with the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, will spread opera culture and give residents and guests a special gift of exclusive performances, meetings and events.

After all, opera was performed in Vilnius before Paris, and Lithuania’s contemporary opera soloists are among the most famous in the world. While the opera genre has deep traditions in Vilnius, it isn’t just for classical music fans. On Vilnius’ 700th anniversary, opera creators will combine the past with the future and unveil an unheard-of opera entitled AIopera, which is a long-lost performance dating back to 17th-century Vilnius that has been restored with the help of modern technology. However, the creators of the Opera.Connect: Vilnius – a City of Opera project are preparing more surprises to help everyone rediscover opera.

A modern gift for the city

For three years until 2023, Vilnius will become the capital of European opera. The Opera Europa Conference – a meeting of the largest European initiative of this genre in Vilnius – will take place in the city. Opera directors, scenographers and choreographers will also look for inspiration during their residencies in the Lithuanian capital. The Opera.Connect: Vilnius – a City of Opera project has also prepared an exclusive gift for residents and guests.

Vilnius is famous for being the European centre of technology, so it is not surprising that on its 700th anniversary, creators are giving the city an exclusive performance. In 2023, AIopera will restore one of the city’s first opera performances of the 17th century using modern technologies and artificial intelligence. It will be presented to the public at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. The Opera.Connect: Vilnius – a City of Opera project will also encourage businesses to take a better look at the musical genre. After all, opera is an organic, creative model that collaborates and inspires other fields of art, science and innovation, so it’s also fitting to look for integration opportunities with start-ups and game developers.

The roots of opera in Lithuania

Although Birutė, the first Lithuanian opera, only premiered on 6 November 1906 at Vilnius Town Hall, citizens were enjoying the opera long before the event. Lithuania’s first operas were performed at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania less than 40 years after their first performances in Italy, earlier than Paris or London. Opera became one of the main musical genres in the Baroque period and was tightly woven into the city’s culture. After all, Vilnius can be called a Baroque pearl.

However, it wasn’t only entertainment for the nobility. Operas were also performed for the general public, often reflecting the changes in the community and examining the processes of democracy. Therefore, for the city’s anniversary, composers also want to give the community a chance to hear opera in their daily surroundings. The Opera on Wheels project will give everyone the opportunity to listen to excerpts from operas in unexpected urban spaces and residential areas. The Opera Art project will reveal the beauty of opera to residents of Vilnius who have minimal access to culture – performers will visit institutions caring for socially vulnerable people and prisons.

Opera in Vilnius today

Vilnius is not only the city of traditional opera. In 2019, the Lithuanian opera-performance Sun and Sea by Vaiva Grainytė, Lina Lapelytė and Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale. World-famous opera performers started their careers in Vilnius: Virgilijus Noreika, Violeta Urmana, Edgaras Montvidas, Asmik Grigorian, and others spread Lithuania’s name around the globe. The Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre built in 1974 was one of the most modern engineering buildings in the region at the time. Contemporary opera interpretations by the Vilnius City Opera offer a fresh take for music lovers in Vilnius. Future stars are growing in the Operomanija opera incubator. Opera combines music, lyrics, dance, art and architecture to create something magical. In Vilnius, opera will be an important city symbol for the next three years, as it is a connecting point between multidisciplinarity and multiculturalism.

A new generation is growing

Just as Vilnius has managed to transform and remain modern for the last 700 years, opera composers want the genre to stay relevant today. Opera not only talks about the past but also looks to the future in search of new routes. Vilnius City Opera has long surprised fans of world opera with its modern approach to the genre, thus attracting a new audience to the theatre. While Vilnius celebrates its 700th anniversary, the Baltic Opera Awards will be held in the city to honour opera composers and organisations in the three Baltic States. Thus, residents of Vilnius and guests in the city will discover new talent and unheard works.

However, for the city to continue growing future opera stars, new knowledge is needed. A conference of the European Network of Opera Academies will take place in Vilnius. A meeting of educational and scientific institutions preparing for the new generation of opera creators and performers in Vilnius will build strong foundations to keep young talents growing.

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