RUR (Rossum’s Universal Replicants) by Martin Rieser (artist) and Andrew Hugill (composer) was the first of two mini web operas — both winners of a commission by the Opera and the Media of the Future project — that were launched at the inaugural OMF event at Glyndebourne (October 23-24, 2014).
Below is an introduction to this work by Rieser. The web opera itself may be accessed online here: http://reframe.sussex.ac.uk/rur/.
A new genre of opera is emerging from digital culture: a new way of telling stories and generating and reaching audiences. The RUR mini-web opera provides an explosive encounter between new technologies and the long-established tradition of opera. RUR transforms the way in which operatic works are produced and consumed. Audiences are engaged in active participation through Social Media, and the roles of the collaborators in a production are changed.
The operatic experience becomes networked, asynchronous and immersive. Built around coordinated social media delivery relating the opera- story, it is displayed as a series of live newslinks and updates: fabricated histories and news, combined as Twitter feeds, Facebook postings, blog posts and Youtube materials webcast to the audience’s mobile surfaces and social media interfaces as a media wall.
As in Karel Capek’s visionary 1920s play, this mini-opera explores the theme of science used for profit without thought of consequences, where ‘robots’ are actually organic and physically indistinguishable replicants of human, brought up to date in a contemporary setting. Background images are sourced from Youtube or created from online flickr images, which have been animated by the artist through morphing software.
The music contrasts replicant with human voices. In one song, a female replicant sings a blues lament accompanied by prepared piano. In another, a replicant chorus chants machine songs against a backdrop of rhythmical synthesiser sounds. By contrast, two extended arias are sung by a soprano and a tenor: a fervent prayer that layers up pianos and glass harmonica, and a lyrical love song with tuned percussion, strings and solo cello.
In future incarnations the authors envisage using theatre-in-the-round through 3D technologies, embedded in a mobile application working with devices such as Occulus Rift, putting the audience in the centre of three-dimensional scenography and motion-captured avatars, enacting the opera, as in their earlier work “Secret Garden” (http://www.martinrieser.com/Secret Garden.htm)
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