The Royal Opera House (ROH) has announced that it will present the world’s first opera in hyper-reality. Current, Rising is a unique collaboration between the ROH’s innovation programme, Audience Labs, award-winning Figment Productions and Royal Holloway, University of London.
Developed by a female-led creative team and funded by UK Research and Innovation, Current, Rising is a unique experiment blending historic stagecraft, virtual reality and a multisensory set. Four people at a time will step into a bespoke ‘Opera Tardis’ to experience a musical journey exploring ideas of isolation, connection and collective reimagination.
The opera is inspired by the liberation of Ariel at the end of Shakespeare’s Tempest and has been described by the opera house as “a radical new way of seeing opera which puts the audience at the centre of the performance”. It is directed by video pioneer Netia Jones.
“With Current, Rising, we have been exploring the possibilities of VR to expand the idea of what an opera can be, both in the process of creation and in the audience experience,” Jones commented.
“VR challenges all the traditional hierarchies of opera and classical music, and allows a completely different approach. It is the most democratic of all media – it can subvert the laws of physics, so why would it need to conform to the usual rules of cultural exchange?
“It provides a space where music, the visual world and the physical experience are completely enmeshed, changing the relationships between the creators, the usual sequence of creation and the relationship of the audience to the work. Here the audience are the protagonists, they are inside the work, and their physical experience is a part of the work itself.”
Current, Rising is designed by award-winning designer Jo Scotcher, who trained at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and is composed by renowned composer Samantha Fernando. Featuring in the experience is soprano Anna Dennis, noted for her work in both baroque and contemporary music.
Performances are planned to take place at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre in January. The production was set to premiere on 19 December, but all 2020 shows have been cancelled after the government’s announcement that London has been moved into Tier 3. See the ROH website for details on 2021 performances.
The Royal Opera House will also go behind the scenes of Current, Rising in an Insight Event featuring interviews with the creative team, exploring the creative process, technology and composition of this extraordinary piece. The date for this is still to be confirmed.
Annette Mees, head of Audience Labs at the Royal Opera House, said: “The ambition for Current, Rising is to transport audiences to a visionary new opera landscape by exploring the transformative power of digital technology. With Audience Labs we have been delving deep to uncover the extraordinary possibilities of what happens when you blend technology with artistic expression.
“Current, Rising is a perfect illustration of our work and demonstrates a vision for the future of cultural forms, encapsulating a 21st-century version of what opera calls ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ (a work of Total Art); a new form, rooted in stage tradition, enriched by the magic of technology”.
Current, Rising is a new hyper-reality opera experience from the Royal Opera House in collaboration with award-winning Figment Productions and Royal Holloway, University of London (Figment Productions).