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Paradise build in Hell 

Under the guidance of Gert Dumbar en Studio Van ’t Hullenaar & Vis, students of the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) and the Royal Conservatoire have collaborated in a unique project reinventing the idea of the opera.

Opera is a format that strongly magnifies situations that you can recognise from reality and it is exactly with this aspect of the magnifying glass that students have looked at and translated this dramatic concept A Paradise Built in Hell - after the book of social critic Rebecca Solnit, who describes the purposeful joy that fills human beings in the face of disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and even a terrorist attack:

“These are clearly not events to be wished for, yet they bring out the best in us and provide common purpose. Everyday concerns and societal structures vanish. A strange kind of liberation fills the air. People rise to the occasion. Social alienation seems to vanish. Our response to disaster gives us nothing less than “a glimpse of who else we ourselves may be and what else our society could become... The recovery of this purpose and closeness without crisis or pressure is the great contemporary task of being human.”

A Paradise Built in Hell challenges the traditional concept of the dramatic opera format as we know it today. It opens up the opportunity for students to experiments with alternative narrative structures, unconventional produced music (and musicians) and suggests a scenography that mimics ‘the real’ while it no longer differs from your couch-perspective; a videogame. It plays with interactive transmissions and invites you to a (virtual)-reality-walk through... Paradise? Hell?

The project has been initiated by the Graphic Design department of the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (KABK) in the context of the KABK IST Research Lab SOUNDSCAPE 2018/2019.



“An act that depicts humanity’s egocentrism as EGO and mother Earth as ECO. The confrontation of these two characters represent the current problems that humans partake in climate change, due to the egocentric and capitalistic culture that we have created. A mountain of limbs, Ego’s brothers and sisters. Who will lose? Who will win? Will any of them survive, or are they going down together? Will any of us survive, or are we going down together? Never forget that we ourselves are also nature.”


Music: ‘Nuugaatsiaq’ by Cindy Giron Named after the landslide in Greenland that resulted into a tsunami in 2017.



Scenography: Maarten Keus (leading) , Pamela Soria Varela, Vladimir Vidanovski, Ilya Doreanu

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