‘Anything could happen’: inside the world’s first virtual reality operaMay 5, 2021
Current, Rising at the Royal Opera House, London, takes its audience on a dizzying journey through strange realms. Could this be the future?
“Start with your feet, Earth-kin,” coos soprano Anna Dennis into my ear. I’m standing in the small space that is hosting the world’s first ever virtual reality opera. I have a headset, headphones and a backpack. The Royal Opera House is calling this the opera Tardis; to me it seems more like a walk-through art installation with bespoke soundtrack. Whatever this is, it isn’t opera as we know it.
Current, Rising was conceived two years ago, long before our Covid age, but is now serendipitously topical. It explores what the blurb calls “ideas of isolation, connection, and collective reimagination”. It wasn’t designed to be opera for our socially distant age, but it works that way. Only four people can enter the opera Tardis at one time, and we’re told to keep one metre apart (tricky since in hyperreality judging real-world distances is a dilly of a pickle). But this isn’t just opera for our Covid age, but victim of it: due to open in December 2020, it fell prey to lockdown.