Royal Opera House's New Show Blends VR With Opera

Royal Opera House's New Show Blends VR With Opera
December 20, 2020
COVID delays mean the immersive experience will now debut in January   CREDIT: ROYAL OPERA HOUSE


Combining cutting-edge technology with traditional stagecraft, a new virtual reality experience from the Royal Opera House will make its grand debut in 2021.


London’s Royal Opera House (ROH) has created a brand new virtual reality experience, which will blend cutting-edge technology with opera for a one-of-a-kind experience when it opens in 2021.

Originally set to debut this month but delayed as a result of COVID-19 restrictions on culture, Current, Rising, will use VR, multi-sensory stage sets and traditional stagecraft to create what ROH has dubbed a ‘hyper-reality’ opera experience.

During the 15-minute immersive show, visitors will wear a VR headset and a backpack computer, which will offer free roaming inside a performance inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Director Netia Jones spearheaded the team behind the development, with music by Samantha Fernando and design from Jo Scotcher. Soprano Anna Dennis and dancer Hayley Chilvers star in the immersive opera.

“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,” said Jones.

“VR challenges all the traditional hierarchies or opera and classical music and allows a completely different approach. It’s 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 port of the work itself.”

Even though they will be immersed in VR, guests will be able to see other members of the virtual group as avatars. Through the experience, they will follow a one-way system and are asked to social distance and wear face masks throughout.

Depending on COVID restrictions for London, the experience is expected to make its delayed debut in mid-January.

Current, Rising is a collaboration between ROH’s Audience Labs, digital media company Figment Productions and the University of London. It was funded by The Audience of the Future Challenge and delivered by UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK government’s Industrial Strategy.

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