Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Hard Day's Night at the Second Life Opera

I spent an interesting afternoon attending the first performance of the opera, "Rita," streamed into Second Life by a group, known as Opera bis, that is bringing French cultural activities to the virtual world. While technological problems ruled the day, the experience was a positive one overall.

The opera itself was performed live in Rennes, France, by Opera de Rennes, and was streamed into both Second Life and OpenSim using QuickTime. Unfortunately, I could see but not hear the production, and it seemed several of the other 20 avatars who attended in Second Life weren't able to hear it either.

Fortunately, I was able to stream an audio-only version of the opera via the Opera Today web site, which at least gave me a sense of the music and lyrics while watching the actors on stage (the Opera Today site also has a concise synopsis of the storyline, for those who are curious).

In addition to audio problems, the video stream had the usual quirks familiar to QuickTime users: flashes of green screen, pixelated images, lag jumps, etc. Unfortunately, the stream also locked up entirely at about the 1 hour mark, which required all to stop and restart the video. The images were otherwise clear for the most part, and the screen placement gave the appearance of actually watching a live performance.

The venue itself was very nice, and the staff were friendly and helpful. Hugobiwan Zolnir, one of the hosts, was hard at work for much of the show trying to help with the technical glitches, but I couldn't understand much of the local chat, given that it was primarily in French.

This is a relatively short opera, at slightly over an hour, and there was a standing ovation at its conclusion. Everyone then moved to a lower level area where drinks were served, and the actors and director were supposed to take questions from the virtual attendees. I'm not sure if I misunderstood, or if they had to cancel the appearance, but they didn't show up as far as I know.

Overall, though, I enjoyed my first virtual opera. The technical glitches weren't entirely unexpected, given that this was Opera bis' first production, and the fact that Second Life is a notoriously fussy and ill tempered virtual platform. With some experience, I suspect that this group will only improve the virtual production qualities as time goes by.

Thanks to Opera bis, and the Opera de Rennes, for an enjoyable cultural event. Vive La France!

And, for those interested in the venue itself (SLurl), here's a video of the build.

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