World’s first "opera in hyper reality"

Published: 24 November 2020
Reporter: Vera Liber

Current, Rising Credit: Joanna Scotcher & Figment Production
Current, Rising Credit: Joanna Scotcher & Figment Productions
Current, Rising Credit: Figment Productions

The Royal Opera House will present what it has called "the world’s first opera in hyper reality", Current, Rising, a collaboration between the Royal Opera House’s Audience Labs innovation programme, Figment Productions and Royal Holloway, University of London.

The 15-minute piece invites audiences, four at a time, to step into an ‘Opera Tardis’ to "experience a dream-like journey carried musically by a poem layered in song" in the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre from 19 December to 17 January. Tickets will be available from 4 December.

Inspired by the liberation of Ariel at the end of Shakespeare’s Tempest, Current, Rising will explore ideas of isolation, connection and collective re-imagination. It is directed by Netia Jones, designed by Jo Scotcher and composed by Samantha Fernando, featuring soprano Anna Dennis. An Insight Event will go behind the scenes, featuring interviews with the creative team and exploring the creative process, technology and composition of this piece.

Annette Mees, Head of Audience Labs, 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”.

Director Netia Jones added, “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. 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.”