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Brief Published: 11 Nov 2020

Royal Opera House Embraces Immersive Virtual Reality Tech


Before England’s second lockdown, London’s Royal Opera House (ROH) had planned its first virtual reality (VR) opera. As cultural brands and institutions grapple with the ever-changing pandemic entertainment landscape, tech can provide a socially distant lifeline for showcases and events.

The opera, called Current, Rising, is billed as the ROH’s first “hyper-reality opera” and relies on VR technology to provide an immersive, multisensory experience. The narrative is inspired by the liberation of Ariel at the finale of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, guiding the audience through dreamlike landscapes. When staged, audience members will be encouraged to walk around the stage in VR headsets, becoming active participants in the opera narrative. The 15-minute show is a collaboration between the ROH’s tech exploration department Audience Labs, digital media production company Figment Productions and soprano Anna Dennis.

Due to England’s current lockdown, the event has been postponed from its original November dates. As VR technology (especially headsets) become more affordable, we anticipate an expansion of cultural experiences specifically designed to be enjoyed in the comfort of consumers’ own homes. As discussed in The Remote-Access Opportunity, part of our Covid-19 Empathy coverage, the challenge for cultural institutions will be the need to create a feeling of exclusivity and indulgence typical of in-venue events for at-home experiences. 

As explored in Highbrow Hedonists, consumers are increasingly blending their artistic and digital lives to find like-minded communities – a trend which has been accelerated by the pandemic. For more on the future of tech-leveraged (and socially distanced) entertainment, see Tech-Led Levity in Visions of Recovery.