The Royal Opera House presents Current, Rising the world’s first opera in hyper reality

From 19 December 2020 the Royal Opera House will present the world’s first opera in hyper reality: Current, Rising – a unique collaboration between the Royal Opera House’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 timely experiment blending historic stagecraft, artistic excellence and cutting-edge technology – a radical new way of seeing opera which puts the audience at the centre of the performance. Current, Rising is a 15-minute hyper reality opera experience, combining virtual reality with a multisensory set, inviting audiences to step into a bespoke ‘Opera Tardis’ and experience a dream-like journey carried musically by a poem layered in song. 

The experience will take place in the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre from 19 December to 17 January and will strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines. Tickets will be available to buy from 4 December via our website.

Inspired by the liberation of Ariel at the end of Shakespeare’s Tempest, Current, Rising will take four people at a time into its magical universe, traversing together the landscapes of the night, from twilight to dawn, exploring ideas of isolation, connection and collective reimagination – a powerful experience of our time.

Current, Rising is directed by video pioneer, Netia Jones, hailed as ‘one of the most imaginative directors of opera working in Britain today’ (The Observer). It 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 and recently described as a ‘delectable soprano and a serene, ever-sentient presence’ (The Times).

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. Date to be confirmed.

Annette Mees, Head, Audience Labs, Royal Opera House says; “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 21stcentury version of what opera calls “gesamtkunstwerk” (a work of Total Art); a new form, rooted in stage tradition, enriched by the magic of technology”.

Netia Jones, Director, Current, Rising says“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.”

Simon Reveley, CEO, Figment Productions says; “Our partnership with the Royal Opera House has allowed us to create a truly unique piece of work, one that extends beyond the reach of this production and brings learning to this new cultural field. Over the past three years we have developed a ‘hyper reality’ platform to enable a group of people to move freely around a virtual world in a shared space, seeing each other as avatars and exploring a world that features real world effects like wind, rumble, movement and tactile objects.  Figment are thrilled to share this prescient concept with the public pushing the envelope of collaboration across diverse creative industries.”

Alex Beard, Chief Executive, Royal Opera House says; “We are thrilled to launch Current, Rising as part of the Royal Opera House autumn programme 2020 – this has been two years in the making, a perfectly formed experiment and proud illustration of our work, reimagining, prototyping and presenting opera and ballet in bold new ways”.

Andrew Chitty, Audience of the Future Challenge Director, UK Research and Innovation, says; “The new immersive technologies of virtual, augmented and mixed reality are changing how we experience the world around us – from entertainment to sports, museums, shops and classrooms.  Our £39m Audience of the Future challenge fund has brought together creative businesses, researchers and technology experts to create striking new experiences that will captivate the public’s imagination but also explore how these new technologies will transform the way we make things – from film and games to theatre and opera.  I’m sure that the lessons learned from the brilliant Current, Rising can show the way forward for a whole sector.”

Professor Mark Lycett, StoryFutures Business innovation Lead at Royal Holloway, University of London says; Current, Rising is testament to the innovation that digital technology can bring to the tradition of the creative industries – in terms of both artistic expression and the methods of production. Given the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic , Current, Rising exemplifies the tenacity of the creative industries in the face of challenge, demonstrates the ability to tell compelling stories using cutting edge technologies and provides a chance to evaluate how audiences respond to digital creative experiences at scale.”

Above: Current, Rising (c) Joanna Scotcher & Figment Productions