Project title: SuperZero, Baby

Project duration: 1/10/2022 - 20/4/2023

Performance dates: 12, 14, 15, 16 April, 2023 at the Kammeroper Vienna

Project supervisors: Department of Musical Theatre Education at the MusikTheater an der Wien (contacts: Barbara Hellmayr)

Project team: Scharmien Zandi (director), Marc Bruckner (musical director), Andrea Konrad (set design), Fabian Huster (choreography), Katharina Adamcyk (voice training)

Brief description of the project:

What might happen if we continue treating the natural world and our resources with so little respect? How are we treating our planet, what is the situation with regard to rubbish, waste and sustainability? This was the topic that eleven young actors and five young musicians explored on the young people’s participatory project SuperZero, Baby run by the MusikTheater an der Wien. With the aid of a team of professional directors, the youngsters created an operatic performance bearing the same name in the space of seven months. SuperZero, Baby was premiered at the Kammeroper in Vienna in April 2023 and places the burning issues of our day – the environment, climate, resources, value and values – on the stage in a way that is absorbing, witty and highly topical.

SuperZero, Baby – The Process

The project began with auditions in which we looked not so much for previous experience and an excellent singing or acting performance, but openness, a sense of curiosity and a willingness to experiment. The result was a motley bunch ranging from complete opera novices to dyed-in-the-wool opera fans. Starting with the basic premise of an operatic performance centring on value and values and incorporating natural resources, the young participants held development rehearsals twice a week at which they collected ideas, wishes and specific elements of the piece. Consequently, the plot, roles, libretto and score only took shape over the course of months. Apart from the development rehearsals, there were also rehearsal weekends during which the young people had the opportunity to try their hand at acting, singing and dancing in order to select the form of performance best suited to each scene. To define the roles, the young artists also worked on costumes and sets, collaborating closely with set designer Andrea Konrad. To give the performers the best possible support with developing their vocal abilities, a voice teacher was regularly invited to rehearsals to provide group and one-to-one tuition.

At the same time as the young stage performers, a five-piece instrumental ensemble thrown together from pupils of the Vienna Musikgymnasium and conducted by Marc Bruckner also held rehearsals. He and the little ensemble, which consisted of two violins, a trumpet, a French horn and percussion, kept in close consultation with director Scharmien Zandi and composed the entire score of SuperZero, Baby by means of improvisation during the season. In accordance with the principle of interdisciplinary cooperation, the musicians did not sit in the orchestra pit during the opera performance, but on stage where they could see the performers. This enabled them to communicate directly with them.

SuperZero, Baby – The Production

SuperZero, Baby puts the youngsters’ ideas about the environment, the climate and sustainability on the stage and takes a dystopian look into the future. The opera is set on an enormous rubbish tip, on which and in which the protagonists live after fleeing from a major climate catastrophe. The sudden discovery of a tree that is still alive is little less than a sensation in the days following the disaster and comes to symbolise a tentative new beginning. If only there were no envy, which suddenly appears during the work, spreads among the people and subconsciously exercises influences.