wed 23/06/2021

Current, Rising, Royal Opera House review - a joyful celebration of storytelling possibility | reviews, news & interviews

Current, Rising, Royal Opera House review - a joyful celebration of storytelling possibility

Current, Rising, Royal Opera House review - a joyful celebration of storytelling possibility

An exciting technological experiment with a nice soundtrack attached

Technology meets art in this exciting operatic experimentJohan Persson

This isn’t an opera review, because Current, Rising is not an opera. What it is, however, is the most convincing example yet that Virtual Reality arts might not just be possible, but desirable – an experience that glances beyond gimmick towards genuinely new territory.

Billed as “the world’s first hyper reality opera”, Current, Rising is a 15-minute, walk-through installation housed in the what the makers have nicknamed the “opera tardis” in the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre. The credits give some sense of the scope of a project that brings together a university, software developers, artists, CGI experts, movement directors – and that’s before you even get to the artist

Created by director Netia Jones, composer Samantha Fernando, designer Joanna Scotcher and librettist Melanie Wilson, the project still feels fundamentally like a vehicle for technology. A concept – a newly freed Ariel at the end of The Tempest travels through worlds and times, urging us, the earth-bound audience, to join him – provides the loosest of dramatic structures, a platform for a sequence of visual and physical sensations, digital “rooms”, each with their own distinct character. There’s a theme-park element to a show that requires you to don a backpack and VR headset. Only four people can enter the performance at once, and the experience – at once shared and disorientingly isolating – is skewed towards everyone’s inner teenager. You marvel, flinch and gasp at the effects – an Escher-like universe of impossible architecture, buildings swallowed up by ground that rumbles and shakes beneath your feet, wind off the ocean whipping round your face, a horizon that dances and pulses with light – but you scarcely have time to listen or digest as you worry about accidentally stepping off your digital platform and tumbling into the abyss.

At its best Current, Rising is a joyful celebration of possibility – a new way of storytelling. But currently it’s also a work that reduces music to a soundtrack, an atmospheric device that serves the sensory effects rather than shaping the drama. 24hrs after leaving I could tell you all about our avatars and their digital playground, but not a thing about Fernando’s score or soprano Anna Dennis’s performance.

Maybe the answer is booking in twice: a first visit to get the oohs and aahs out of the way before returning to really try and grapple with what the ever-inventive Jones and Fernando have created here. The possibilities for opera are very real but the experience is, as yet, only virtual.

At its best Current, Rising is a joyful celebration of possibility – a new way of storytelling

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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