SIRT partners with Canadian Opera Company and National Ballet of Canada to launch Digital Stage

The Canadian Opera Company has embarked on an ambitious long-term project called the Digital Stage to explore new and collaborative approaches to digital technology, in partnership with The National Ballet of Canada and Sheridan College and its Screen Industries Research and Training Centre.

Generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Digital Stage will bring together voices from across all levels of Canadian performing arts companies, important audience viewpoints, and other stakeholders to expand digital capacity in the arts sector and begin envisioning a new model for industry success in the 21st century. Exploring new and collaborative approaches to digital technology, this project is a critical step in not only maintaining a sense of relevance to arts and entertainment consumers today, but also embracing technology’s transformative power across all aspects of the performing arts ecosystem.

“The COC recognizes that we, as a performing arts organization, are not an island,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “As cultural tastes and habits continue to evolve with changing technology, we know that the challenges we face as an opera company echo those faced by others in our industry and that there is a great opportunity to tackle these issues as a sector, through increased knowledge and understanding. We don’t want to simply react to change as it occurs; we want to equip ourselves and our peers with the capacity to adapt and lead through change. I firmly believe that open dialogue and a willingness to explore all possibilities is the only way for the arts to continue resonating with our audiences.”

“The National Ballet of Canada sees digital technology as a transformational tool to deepen engagement with our patrons, to share our art form with the world, and to innovate how we do business,” says Barry Hughson, Executive Director of The National Ballet of Canada. “The Digital Stage project allows us, and our peers, to explore the boundless possibilities offered by digital technology and to learn how it can be incorporated into every facet of our work — from the stage, to the studio, to our administration. Embracing technology and innovation is vital to keeping the arts relevant, accessible and connected to our community.”

“Sheridan has a strong commitment to catalyzing and supporting change at the intersection of creative content and digital technologies within the arts,” says John Helliker, Dean of Innovation, Sheridan College. “Collaboration within an industry-wide initiative is a unique opportunity for our research and incubation centres (SIRT, Canadian Music Theatre Project) as well as faculty and students throughout the Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design to help transform the cultural sector through digital innovation and expand its capacity to reach Canadian and worldwide audiences.”

The first phase of this multi-stage project is already underway with an environmental scan of the performing arts sector and beyond, both domestically and internationally. KerrSmith Design is a multidisciplinary research and design studio, specializing in complexity, futures, and innovation; their team has been selected to research and identify digital best practices, challenges, and barriers.

Exploring and piloting new technology will form the second phase of the Digital Stage. Over the coming months, project participants will test various digital advances in real-life settings and conditions to assess practicality and potential application across Canadian organizations.

Finally, the Digital Stage will host a series of symposiums meant to foster candid conversations around current challenges and new data as it is collected. Results from the current environmental scan will be presented at the first symposium scheduled for October 2, 2019 at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre in Toronto. As the symposium will include plenty of opportunity for discussion between industry partners, the Canadian Opera Company and its partners welcome the participation of interested industry groups and arts organizations who wish to attend.

To register for the October symposium, please contact or visit for further details.

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