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World’s first internet opera opening at Savonlinna

A production conceived by an international online community and staged by opera professionals will premiere at the Savonlinna Opera Festival this weekend.

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The brainchild of the Opera by You project, Free Will is the first-ever opera crowdsourced online.

As the name implies, anyone who wanted to could join in the effort—and the opera's creators number some 200 participants the world over. They've come up with ideas, composed music and selected the best proposals by voting.

When director Jere Erkkilä was invited onboard the project, the whole system was a complete maze to him, he says.

"Art director Jari Hämäläinen called a couple of years ago and asked whether I’d want to take part in this. I said ,'sure, I’ve no idea what you’re talking about, so I’m joining'," Erkkilä quips.

Open creation process

Erkkilä is part of a board of experts that put the production together based on community decisions. The rehearsals are put up online, where people can comment and evaluate the performance.

“This has been completely created by the people,” says Erkkilä. “They’re getting what they wanted.”

One of the creators is Enrico de Zottis from Italy, who’s interested in composing.

“Just yesterday I was watching the rehearsals and I wrote to the actors to send them my compliments for the way they sing a little bit that I wrote,” he explains. “I said, this is exactly how I wanted it to be.”

When explaining how he came to take part in the opera, Zottis notes:

“I really wanted to be part of something that is going to last and is going to be as important as this project is.”

First—but not last?

Director Jere Erkkilä believes that Free Will shall hardly remain the world’s only internet opera.

“The work process has been the most important thing. It’s been this major thing. And when the end result is so good, it’s only a bonus for the entire project,” he says.

The historic work will open at the Savonlinna Opera Festival for one night on Saturday, July 21.

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