The premiere of Rigoletto24 took place in Stuttgart on the 22nd and 23rd of October 2011 for the opening of the new Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart.

»Oh how all my life has been changed in a day!« (Rigoletto, Act II, n.10)

Rigoletto24 explores the creation of art and culture as a collaborative or collective act. Over the course of 24 hours the general public are invited to make live changes to a German translation of the original Libretto from the opera Rigoletto. Text can be chopped and changed on a series of computers that have been networked together, while a pianist continuously plays the musical score. Each change that is made to the text is automatically uploaded onto each of the other computers. The text becomes fluid and changeable in an exercise of collaborative creation.

After 24 hours seven opera singers will perform the new text, using the original score composed by Giuseppi Verdi. Each performance of Rigoletto24 is a world premiere, in which the audience is given the opportunity to decide on the content and dramaturgical turn of events that enfold within the opera.

The history of the libretto from Rigoletto, a process heavily influenced by censorship, compromise and artistic integrity, provides the starting point for Rigoletto24.

Verdi and the librettist Piave were repeatedly forced to change the script. By the time Rigoletto was premiered the script had already been chopped, changed and completely rewritten three times. Following the sale of the score and libretto to Ricordi, a variety of versions were produced to suit different censorship bodies and different tastes. The play was available in four versions, Rigoletto, Viscardello, Lionello and Claradi Perth, each with different characters and settings. You could even order a happy or a sad ending.

Can the emergence of new communicative platforms avoid traditional forms of censorship and control?

Rigoletto24 is a socio-cultural experiment exploring how modes of communication and the ways in which we process information have changed. A computer literate ‘cut-and-paste’ generation tends to sample, reorganise and piece together text-based information in bite-sized chunks. Online platforms used to carry this information, such as Wikipedia, have become more fluid, interactive and subject to change. The flow and production of digital information seems to avoid or renegotiate direct hierarchical control. Traditional notions of authorship or ownership have been removed and replaced with a new concept of collective control, giving every individual the power to introduce and monitor change.

Are we releasing Rigoletto from the state censorship, artistic constraints and economic exploitation it endured? Or do individual audience members censor the text for themselves, replacing one form of censorship for another? Is the human being biologically and culturally conditioned to censor information? A form of self-censorship, manifesting itself in how we subconsciously piece things together.

Creating a work of art is often host to a number of external and internal influences. This form of censorship begins with the consideration of the artwork, with the pressure to conform, succeed, survive or appease. Can Rigoletto24 offer a space in which creation can temporarily regain artistic integrity? Or does the collaborative nature of this creation serve as a problematic to this ideal? How do we value a collaborative work of art, as opposed to an individual artistic vision?

The collective responsibility our audience takes for the final performance also explores one of the central themes in the opera itself; that our actions and utterances can have consequences. Playing on this thematic each participant in Rigoletto24 is responsible for the completed text, while joining a trail of thought that will influence future ‘players’, as layer upon layer of changes are introduced to the script.

Project website: www.rigoletto24.com

The premiere of Rigoletto24 in Stuttgart was funded by the Landesverband freier Theater Baden-Württemberg, Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg, Aktion KulturAllianzen and the Allianz Hauptvertretung Stephan Zaiss

The premiere of Rigoletto24 in Stuttgart was created in cooperation with the Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart, stuttgartnachtInitial Komunikationsdesign, Teilchenbeschleuniger, Service Kiosk IT Consulting, IT’s Schwinge, SCSI Schulungscenter, Kultur Für Alle, Freies Musikzentrum Stuttgart, Stuttgarter Schriftstellerhaus, Reinsburghallen and Copy Shop West

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Susanne Kudielka and Kaspar Wimberley work internationally as interventionists and performance researchers specialising in site-specific and site-responsive art, alternative strategies for audience interaction and new forms of artistic collaboration.

The artistic process usually begins with a given site, and a process of observation and dialogue that analyses, and eventually responds, to the architectural, socio-political, geographical, mythological, connotative and historical narratives that can be found there.

Projects are quietly subversive, playfully readjusting the narrative and appreciation of a particular activity or a given site. The working process often involves those that live in an area, and aims to be accessible and relevant.

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