|World Opera Report - 2009|
|Wednesday, 03 June 2009 11:51|
Opportunities and Challenges at the World Opera
Special CineGrid Report
Second Annual World Opera Symposium
This innovative web-connected concert was part of the second annual World Opera Symposium. This type of distributed performance, in which networks bring musicians from remote locations together for real-time concerts, has become increasingly common in recent years. However, most performances are of improvised and experimental music that can handle a great deal of rhythmic flexibility, due to the network delay. Traditional opera, and classical music in general, is much less forgiving; performers are accustomed to playing exactly together, with little margin for error. The difficulties built into such repertory are the reason the World Opera project exists.
Founded several years ago by University of Tromsø professor Niels Lund, the purpose of the World Opera is to use distributed performances of opera to push the limits of telepresence and telecommunications technology. You might be surprised to note that the grant that provided the seed money for this project was intended to foster advances in telemedicine, not performance arts. The idea behind the grant was that if musicians, who are highly attuned to latency and synchronization errors, find a telepresence environment acceptable for performance, then so should most users of that environment. The World Opera intends to continue experiments like this concert towards the ultimate goal of the production of a full opera, currently being composed, in 2012.
Research Projects Already Bearing Fruit
Several research programs affiliated with the World Opera, including those at Stanford, McGill University, the University of Tromsø, Simula Lab, and Bang und Olufsen, have already found solutions to some of the technological hurdles inherent in streaming synchronous audio-video performances. The ever-improving quality of network speeds means that it is now possible to send audio over long distances with generally acceptable latencies.
Work has also been done to explore the relationships between spaces found in this kind of performance. By knitting together two distant locations, the performers, composers, and technicians are able to meld and manipulate the audiences’ relationship to their environments. Media technologists, psychoacousticians, and sound designers are all developing approaches to these interactive performance opportunities.
More Work to Be Done
However, as with most cutting-edge projects, much work remains to be done, and the World Opera Symposium provided a place to brainstorm about problems and solutions. Some of the exciting ideas from the World Opera Symposium include:
Premiere of First Dedicated Work Scheduled for 2012
The World Opera definitely has a lot to do in order to achieve its goal of a 2012 performance of their first dedicated work – a World Opera production in three acts based on Ludvig Holberg’s satirical science fiction novel "Niels Klims subterranean journey" from 1741 with music by 3 composers from Denmark, Russia/Germany and China/Canada. Full scale premiere plans to be in May 2012 as the first transcontinental distributed opera. In May 2010, a pre-premiere is planned to take place in Struer, Tromsø, New York and Montreal. Managing such a large and varied research group is a major challenge, as is the production of a full-length opera in four to eight opera houses simultaneously.
Despite all of this, though, the enthusiasm and abilities of the current participants is high – we can expect that future partners will be carefully chosen to complement the existing community and fill gaps in expertise.
Looking for Help from Organizations, Researchers, and Volunteers
The World Opera organization is always on the lookout for networks and networking professionals to assist in this project, which seems sure to both energize the public and produce significant intellectual property. Although many of the performance sites have already been identified, additional locations could be considered. The World Opera is actively looking for researchers interested in these and other related issues to assist in the technical development of its projects.
Nathan Brock is a composer and audio engineer. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher in networked audio at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology and an adjunct professor of Music at the University of San Diego.