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”It is a sad and yet somewhat dangerous creation that carries both the animal and the human being inside”

Human mechanics and soulful machines – in composer Carl Unander-Scharin and choreographer Åsa Unander-Scharin’s artistry meets advanced technology, choreography and music. Scrap and machine parts build unique robots and puppets, brought to life with body and voice through Åsa’s movements and Carl’s music.

– It sounded extremely melodic and beautiful – she played like on a synth but in the air, by moving. The whole point here is that she invites robots and artificial intelligence to ”the living”.
Professor in Philosophy Jonna Bornemark on Swedish Radio 191115

Opera Mecatronica is the result of a long collaboration between Carl and Åsa, in 1998 they together created the world’s first choreographed industrial robot ”The Lamentations of Orpheus”. Since then, a large number of interactive robotic art works have seen the light of day, for example the three-meter-long puppet ”Olimpia” or the robotic swan ”Robocygne” that moves the audience to tears through its melancholy dance to Carl’s electro-acoustic version of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

There is a melancholy and beauty in Opera Mecatronica’s creatures that, in its simplicity, exhibit human emotions and life while incorporating a state-of-the-art technology. Standing eye to eye with these hybrid creatures makes the mind spin around the mystery of life.

Opera Mecatronica was shown for the first time as a complete exhibition in 2010, 25 meters underground in R1 Sweden’s first reactor hall located on Royal Institute of Technology KTH’s campus in Stockholm. Since then, Opera Mecatronica has toured in full or in parts to, for example Opera Day Rotterdam 2012 (Netherlands), Cape Town Opera 2013 (South Africa), Toronto 2014 (Canada), The Liszt Academy in Budapest 2014 (Hungary), Paris 2013 (France), San José 2016 (USA), Helsinki 2015 (Finland) and Rijeka, 2019 (Croatia). One of Opera Mecatronica’s highlights was to create a performance to Steven Hawking’s honor during his celebrated visit to Stockholm in 2015.

The Callas Marionette. Photo: Mats Bäcker

Åsa Unander-Scharin is a choreographer and dancer who creates choreographic works in collaboration with composers, visual artists, programmers, robot researchers and dancers. Her choreographic works have been presented at festivals, art galleries and conferences in Europe, Japan, Vietnam, Canada and USA.

In 1998 her first robot choreography The Lamentations of Orpheus was awarded an honorary mention from VIDA 2.0, and in 2014 it was performed live again as part of the International Science Festival Gothenburg. Her two dance films Elevation and Artificial Body Voices have been produced by the Swedish Television. In 2006 Petrushkas´ Cry received a special prize in VIDA 9.0 Madrid, and in 2008 she choreographed The Crystal Cabinet at Piteå Chamber Opera and Desire, Chaos and Geometry for The Vietnam National Opera Ballet. Her robotic swan Robocygne inaugurated the International Tanzmesse at Deutche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf 2012 and in 2011 she created the exhibition Swanlake Revisited at the Dance Museum. Recent works are Opera Mecatronica performed at Swedish Royal Opera House and Rotterdam Opera Days, Sing the Body Electric at Swedish Theatre Biennale and Cape Town Opera, Varelser&Ballader for Musica Vitae, and Fragmente to music by Makoto Shinohara.

In 2008 her doctoral thesis: “Human mechanics and soulful machines” was published. Since 2014 she has held a position of professor and deputy scientific leader of Innovative Art and Technology at Luleå University of Technology, and between 2013-15 she was member of The Committee for Artistic Research at The Swedish Research Council. Currently she is creating Isagel for the Gothenburg organ festival 2019, La Conférence des oiseaux and a giant marionette for the CALLAS:MEDEA project at Croatian national opera in Rijeka, Cultural Capital of Europe 2020.

Carl Unander-Scharin is a Swedish composer, opera singer, PhD and Professor, who has studied at the Royal College of Music, University College of Opera and Royal Institute of Technology (all in Stockholm).

He has a successful career as a lyric tenor (for upcoming performances, CLICK HERE , having sung roles at many Swedish venues including the Folkoperan, Vadstena Academy and the Drottningholm Theatre as well as a large portion of the oratorio repertory. From 2000 to 2011 he was engaged as a tenor soloist at the Swedish Royal Opera. His roles have included Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Almaviva (Il Barbiere), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) Gonzalve (L ́ heure Espagnole) and Nadir (The Pearlfishers) as well as a broad range of the oratorio repertory – in particular the Evangelist in the passions by J S Bach and the music of G F Handel and G Rossini. 

Carl Unander-Scharin is a prolific composer (for a full list of compositions, CLICK HERE) and has composed 12 operas, two oratorios and a wide range of music for TV, dance, films and choirs – as well as interactive works in the ”Opera Mecatronica”-series. His works have been performed internationally, in countries such as USA, Hungary, Holland, Finland, France, South Africa, Croatia. He has held two composer-in-residence positions (Gothenburg Opera and Den Anden Opera, Copenhagen) and has received numerous prices as well as commissions. Among the commissioners are such venues as The Stockholm Royal Opera, NorrlandsOperan, The Croatian National Opera, Swedish Television, Swedish Radio, Berwaldhallen and Vadstena-Akademien.

Carls PhD thesis, ”Extending Opera”, can be downloaded,  CLICK HERE.

He was a Visiting Professor at the University College of Opera in Stockholm from 2011 to 2014 and holds a Professor position since 2014 at the University of Karlstad. Unander-Scharin is an elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

Opera Mecatronica and world renowned physician Stephen Hawking.

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