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What if our minds could live forever? Recent advances in artificial intelligence and neuroscience mean that we will soon be able to map our memories and experiences, and to use these data to build a digital consciousness identical with our own. These ‘whole brain emulations’ will be able to carry on indefinitely after our deaths: a way of virtual resurrection. But where do our identities really reside? In our minds, our bodies, or our relationships? And how far do the data of our lives determine our fate?
Upload will explore these ancient philosophical questions against the backdrop of present-day and near-future technologies.

Dutch National Opera and its co-commission partners Opera Cologne, Park Avenue Armory New York, Bregenzer Festspiele, doubleA foundation, and Ensemble Musikfabrik will co-produce the World Premiere of Upload, a new opera by Dutch artist Michel van der Aa.

Upload tells the story of a father, who suffers a severe trauma, and a daughter. It features two timelines: the present (shortly after the upload of the father) and the recent past in which the upload process takes place. In these flashbacks, we see the technology used for the uploading: motion capture and foley recordings. During this process the physical body dies. The father is treated by a psychiatrist and two technicians in a Swiss laboratory. Conversations with family and friends with all kinds of memories emphasize the failing of memory and implicitly the inaccuracy of the upload process. In between we see moments from the present: the daughter wasn’t aware of her father’s ardent wish to be uploaded in order to reduce his trauma. This process fails; the father puts his fate in his daughter’s hands. She has to decide whether or not she will delete him, a form of digital euthanasia.

photo: Marco Borggreve

Cast, stage
Julia Bullock – daughter
Roderick Williams – father
Ensemble MusikFabrik, cond. Otto Tausk

Cast, film
Katja Herbers
Ashley Zukerman
Esther Mugambi
Samuel West
Claron McFadden
David Eeles
Tessa Stephenson

Extras: Mimmie Idenburg, Hank Botwinik, Sylvia van der Meis-Strauss, Stephane Fructus, Dorien Cudogham, Annelein Greveling, Tamara Friedman, Yannick Hulsebosch

Team
Michel van der Aa – Composer, director, libretto
Otto Tausk – Musical director
Theun Mosk – Scenography & light
Elske van Buuren – costume design
Madelon Kooijman, Niels Nuijten – Dramaturges

Joost Rietdijk – Director of Photography
Darien Brito – Motion capture and real-time graphics
Tom Gelissen – Sounddesign
Simon Hendry – Play-out operator
Julius Horsthuis – VFX Supervisor & Fractal Artist

Djoere de Jong – Production Manager
Siemen van der Werf – Technical director
Rosita Wouda (doubleA foundation) – Financial director

Video

Instrumentation

Film opera
2019-2020

1 Soprano
1 Baritone

1 Flute
1 Clarinet in B-flat
1 Trumpet in C
1 Horn in F

1 Keyboard player (Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3*)
1 Percussion player

2 Violins
1 Violas
1 Violoncellos
1 Double bass (low C string)

Soundtrack (Surround, laptop, 1 player)
Film (multiple screens)

*can be high-quality sampled instruments, like Spectrasonics Keyscape and IK Multimedia Hammond B-3X.

Details

Duration

85′

First performance

1 October 2021
Stopera, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Commissioned by

Dutch National Opera, Opera Cologne, Bregenzer Festspiele, MusikFabrik, Park Avenue Armory, doubleA Foundation

Publisher

Boosey & Hawkes

Performances

Upcoming performance


29 July 2021

Upload (world premiere)

Julia Bullock, Roderick Williams
Ensemble MusikFabrik, cond. Otto Tausk

Bregenzer Festspiele, Bregenz, Austria

All performances of Upload

News

25 April 2021

Michel van der Aa’s new film opera “Upload” on stage and screen

“Upload”, the new film opera by Michel van der Aa exploring how life could become eternal in the digital sphere, receives its stage premiere at the Bregenz Festival on 29 July. A film version will be screened by Medici TV and streamed by Dutch National Opera from 19 July.

The world stage premiere of Michel van der Aa’s new opera Upload is presented by the Bregenz Festival in Austria on 29 July starring singers Julia Bullock and Roderick Williams. Otto Tausk conducts the Cologne-based Ensemble Musikfabrik and the direction of the stage production and immersive film are by the composer. The filmed part features actors Katja Herbers, Ashley Zukerman, Esther Mugambi, Samuel West, and Claron McFadden.
The Bregenz premiere is followed by performances at Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam this October, and at Park Avenue Armory New York and Opera Cologne in future seasons.

Upload was co-commissioned by Dutch National Opera, Park Avenue Armory, Oper Köln, Bregenzer Festspiele, and Ensemble Musikfabrik. Its Netherlands premiere will be on 1 October at Dutch National Opera, and further dates will follow in New York and Cologne in 2022/23.

Upload explores the possibility of attaining eternal life by uploading a digital version of ourselves, and investigates what this means for our ‘humanness’, our identity, and our relationships with others. What if our minds could live forever? Recent advances in artificial intelligence and neuroscience mean that we will soon be able to map our memories and experiences, and to use these data to build a digital consciousness identical to our own. These ‘whole brain emulations’ will be able to carry on indefinitely after we die, as a kind of virtual resurrection. But where do our identities really reside? In our minds, our bodies, or our relationships? And to what extent do the data of our lives determine our fate? Upload will explore these ancient philosophical questions against the backdrop of present-day and near-future technologies.

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