The OpéRA de poche project aims to develop operas for augmented and virtual reality through an interdisciplinary co-creation process linking academic research, technological research and development, and artistic creation. These operas, which will be accessible on smartphones and tablets, will enable audiences to attend a 360° operatic performance in their own home space. The aim of this project is to renew and democratize opera.
The OpéRA de poche project was born in the spring of 2021 following a discussion with Opéra de Montréal, which was seeking, in the words of their General Director Patrick Corrigan, to "deconstruct the rigorous structure of opera on the big stage" in order to open opera up to a diversity of artists and new artistic forms, without losing the traditional operatic audience. This issue, which includes the question of audience renewal and diversity as much as that of the form and distribution of operas, has become more apparent in the context of the pandemic and the screenification of cultural practices. Although many works are available online, most of them were conceived for the operatic stage, creating a sense of loss of presence when viewed on screen. But what if, instead of filming operas written for the stage, they were designed from the outset for new technologies? And what might this experience teach us about the operatic genre?
The aim of this project is to answer these questions by exploring the potential of augmented reality in the performing arts, and more specifically in opera, to renew research-creation methodologies, develop new forms of performance - more intimate - reach new audiences - more diversified - in other venues - such as the domestic space. In this way, the project aims to democratize opera, eliminating the elements that limit access to the genre and opening it up to greater cultural and artistic diversity.
The project began as a partnership between the CRCOC (Faculty of Music, UdeM) and Opéra de Montréal, and was soon joined by the Faculties of Arts, Science and Planning (UdeM), the National Theatre School and technology partners INEDI and Normal Studio.
The project has now expanded to include collaborations with Wapikoni mobile, Musique nomade and the Vietnamese Cultural Centre.
For this first phase, four interdisciplinary teams of students in playwriting, composition, design, scenography, theater, dance, film and media arts each developed a five-minute media opera in augmented and virtual reality on the theme of the river (fleuve) for two singers and three instruments (accordion, clarinet and cello) as part of a one-year interdisciplinary and interfaculty seminar (fall 2021 - winter 2022).
The aim of this second phase is to develop five fifteen-minute augmented and virtual reality operas, to be broadcast by the Opéra de Montréal in the spring of 2024. During this phase, most of the students who participated in Phase 1 will continue their work, developing their prototypes.