A big scale community opera production
La Gata Perduda
Environmental warnings in a virtual reality opera
Opera relies on the acoustics and resources of a lyric theatre, so can it exist outside such buildings? In the whole of Ireland, there are only three theatres able to receive a full-scale opera production. People who don’t live near Dublin, Belfast or Cork must enjoy opera through recordings or chamber concerts. Valuable as these are, they cannot offer the immersion of being at the opera.
Irish National Opera (INO) is a young opera company but it is already building a reputation for its use of new media to innovate in opera. The INO team wanted to know if virtual reality (VR) might help them bring opera to new places and new audiences. There have been previous attempts to create opera in VR, but not in a co-creation process with non-professional artists.
So, for Traction, INO worked with people in different parts of Ireland—adults in Tallaght (near Dublin), Irish-speakers in Inis Meáin (one of the Aran Islands of the west coast), and young people from the rural centre of the country.
Out of the Ordinary is the world’s first community opera in virtual reality, with a portable setup touring through Ireland—and beyond—in 2022 and 2023. It draws as much on the new world of video games as the old one of opera. Through a VR headset, audiences have an experience as powerfully immersive as traditional opera but one that few of us have ever known, solitary, bewitching and completely contemporary.
We can’t say that we understand the potential of VR in opera yet, and it will never be for everyone, but this VR opera opens the door on a wealth of new ideas and ways of co-creating opera in the 21st century.