Photo of Sara Caneva conducting an orchestra.

A new opera composed by a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham’s Department of Music has premiered at a festival in Italy. The composer, conductor and pianist Sara Caneva created the three-part opera, Radice Posizione Distanza, for the Piccolo Opera Festival in Gorizia, Italy, on 27 March 2024, which celebrated the European Capitals of Culture for 2025.

Created during a residency last year in the northern Italian region that shares a border with Slovenia, Caneva’s work explores themes of borders, liminality, the Soča River, and the former asylum of Franco Basaglia. The opera was accompanied by the GO! Borderless Orchestra, which brings together Italian, Slovenian and Croatian musicians. Following the premiere, the project behind the festival – the GO! Borderless Opera Lab – was awarded special funding by the Italian Ministry of Culture.

In Radice Posizione Distanza (Origin Position Distance), I translated mental healing paths into a multimedia opera. I built a dramaturgy based on auditory reminiscences that reflected connections between orchestral soundscape composition, recordings, theatre, improvisation, and visual deprivation. The interpreters embody territorial elements, blurring the borders between performing and experiencing the local reality. These threads are at the core of my research on composing operatic innovations.

Sara Caneva, Teaching Fellow in Composition and Orchestration at University of Birmingham