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Virtual reality researchers team up to make opera accessible to all

Tech and VR researchers team up with Irish National Opera to bring opera to communities around Ireland
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3 April 2020

In an innovative collaboration, Irish National Opera (INO) has teamed up with tech researchers to make opera accessible to all. 

As part of a Europe-wide Horizon 2020 project, INO will collaborate with researchers from DCU’s Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics to create an operatic work using new immersive technologies. The venture should be ready for presentation in 2022.

Insight researchers will use adaptive video, virtual reality and 360º multimedia content, to develop tools that allow for the co-creation of the opera. The team has partnered with several experts in the field including Virtual Reality Ireland, Dublin City University, Vicomtech and Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica.




The project, known as Traction, aims to make opera more appealing and accessible to communities currently excluded from the art form through use of technology.

The opera will be drawn from the experiences of three communities; migrant communities in Tallaght through partnership with Civic Theatre; rural communities in partnership with Music Generation Offaly/Westmeath; and Gaeltacht communities through partnership with Conradh Na Gaeilge.

Pan-European approach

On a wider scale, Traction hopes bridge the gap between opera professionals and communities across Europe, through community opera with migrants (around LICEU at Barcelona), opera co-creation with young inmates in prison (driven by SAMP in Leiria) and bringing a novel digital opera to communities in Ireland (led by INO in Ireland).

“This is an ambitious project bringing together the arts and technology to develop new pathways to bring people together, particularly those in danger of being marginalised,” said project co-lead Prof Noel O’Connor, CEO, Insight, school of electronic engineering, DCU.

“Achieving this requires a pan-European approach, bringing together a diverse range of expertise from across disciplines and geographies. Inter-disciplinary research will be the key to enabling the project to realise the ambition of a completely new approach to social inclusion.”

Fellow co-lead Dr Gabriel-Miro Muntean, associate professor, director, performance engineering laboratory, DCU and funded investigator, Insight added: “As top international researchers, the DCU team members’ role in this project is to propose and design novel solutions and use innovative technologies in order to enable remote user access to all stages of opera, from rich media content creation to artistic act consumption, at high quality levels. By employing these innovative solutions, wider participation of diverse categories of people is expected, for their social and cultural benefits.”

“Our mission is to make opera a central part of Ireland’s creative voice,” said Fergus Sheil, artistic director, Irish National Opera. “With this project we engage new communities in the creation and love of opera. We overcome barriers of geography, language and social exclusion. We demonstrate opera’s capacity to re-invent itself and to embrace new technology. Through research we will establish something that we instinctively know ourselves – that opera can have hugely positive effects both on individuals in their own lives, and more broadly for society as a whole.”

“We do not want to make opera palatable to those who don’t attend,” added Mikel Zorrilla, Vicomtech. “We want to define new forms of artistic creation through which the most marginalised groups (migrants, the rural poor, young offenders and others), can work with artists to tell the stories that matter now.”

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