Who we are
Inequality is the defining issue of our time. It constrains the lives and chances of millions of European citizens and makes it harder to address existential threats. Europe is a cultural space, or it is nothing.
Unless its citizens share, and feel common ownership of the culture that expresses what are lightly called “European Values” there is a real threat to the most successful peace-building project we have known.
Opera is the unavoidable heart of this challenge. A cornerstone of European cultural heritage, opera has always spoken to both elites and people, expressed both authority and revolution. Its colour, passion, beauty and drama have inspired generations. But in recent decades, this art has too often lost sight of its popular roots and radical edge.
European Opera may be the total art that includes every aspect of practice, the theatre of emotion that aspires to transcendent and universal artistic experience. Opera is in danger of becoming a symbol of European inequality but – crucially – it also has the capacity to rewrite that story, to include those left behind in wider prosperity, to renew itself and so find the energy, the resonance and the heart to be once again the root of living culture.
The Traction research project —which ran for three years between January 2020 and December 2022— aimed to contribute to opera’s renewal as a territory of cultural and social inclusion, with the support of innovative technology.
It did so by moving from the limited policy of cultural democratisation—essentially making opera more attractive to those who don’t attend—towards the more demanding idea of cultural democracy, which involves finding new ways for people at risk of social exclusion to co-create opera performances with professional artists, telling stories that are important to them, and reconnecting the form with its socially progressive potential.
Traction researched how this could be done through three exploratory operas in Barcelona, Portugal, and Ireland that offer a range of scale, social context, approaches and artistic values, within an overarching principle of artistic co-creation.