We all binge-watch Netflix series, but what about falling in love with the story, protagonists and music of a new youth-opera series? “More time online, less alone time?” The participatory youth chat opera Utoperas tells the story of an online chat world that is ruled by a totalitarian administrator who increasingly imposes more and more rules on how to behave, dress, with whom to interact and even how long people are expected to be online or allowed to enjoy their private time. Here, the young protagonists Sarah, Gabriel and Vanessa ask themselves: ‘How visible or invisible do I want to be? Why is it good to be in a group? And when is it important to stand up for one’s own needs?’

Through a series of dynamic weekly workshops on theatre, script writing and composition led by artists of the Vienna State Opera and Superar, 50 young people explored the main ideas of the dystopian novel “We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin and co-created a youth opera that exudes their views about the world around them and their visions for the future. The resulting work exudes authenticity at its core elements: the story, the dialogues, the rhythm and music style reflect the multicultural reality in which the participants interact with one another and learn to navigate their daily lives. The experience was brought to final fruition through performances in an avant-garde space in the sixth district of the city, where the young creators appeared as performers of their own work together with professional singers of the Vienna State Opera as well as the Stage Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera.

The interdisciplinary and episodical approach of Utoperas challenges the traditional opera format and experiments with news aesthetics and ways of engaging young people as new audiences with this complex and fascinating art form: By playfully drawing on the advantages of the series format that is usually known from film, short episodes invite the audience to engage with the plot and music that is based and inspired by teenagers’ language and social media habits. If the audiences want to know how the story continues, they are invited to come back the other week. Further, Utoperas physically leaves the Vienna State Opera building and explores new spaces for performing opera in communities: The three low-threshold episodes are performed in a former depot in the 6th districts, whose unique open set up supports the idea of being visible or hidden.

Based on a partnership model between the Vienna State Opera, Superar and two schools from the 10th district of Vienna, which is the most demographically diverse but also economically most disadvantaged district of Vienna, Utoperas brings together children and teenagers from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and international professional artists. It also connects different and new audiences that are encouraged to explore new narratives and stories of young people in new locations, exploring the aesthetics of opera in unusual urban spaces.