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Portrait of Hedvig Jalhed. Photo.

Hedvig Jalhed


Portrait of Hedvig Jalhed. Photo.

Opera Inside-Out : Reversed Staging for Sensory Immersion


  • Hedvig Jalhed
  • Mattias Rylander

Summary, in English

How can the unseen be heard and imagined through operatic means? In the chamber opera In the Darkness, Everything Went All Black – set in pitch-black darkness – the stage was radically inverted. For the purpose of exploring the immersive potential of spatial reversal, methods for operatic creation and presentation were rethought in terms of visibility, layout, work order, and surveillance. Firstly, the visual default mode of the lit stage was reversed so that total darkness became the foundation for both discreet and shocking light effects. Secondly, the conventional theatrical layout was reversed and the audience was placed in half-circles at the centre of the venue, facing outwards from a void-surrounded by the performance instead of surrounding it. Thirdly, the common operatic work order was reversed so that the set design was workshopped and determined before the libretto and score were written. Fourthly, the relation between audience and ensemble was reversed as the performers observed the audience through IR-cameras while the audience for most of the time was denied visual stimuli and overview. The artistic outcomes of this opera show that negative staging (decreasing sensory information) can effectively contrast positive staging (increasing sensory information) as an artistic tool, highlighting the dynamics of operas as multi-sensory compositions.

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper: abstract


  • Music


  • opera
  • immersion
  • inversion
  • reversal
  • staging
  • set design
  • spectatorship
  • information

Conference name

Watershed Music Theatre Community Exchange Sessions

Conference date

2021-05-26 - 2021-05-28

Conference place

Kingston, Canada