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Opera Streaming Software Unveiled At Opera America Conference

Today, May 20, Cerise Jacobs and her activist opera company, White Snake Projects (WSP), roll out a Special Access Early Release of their Tutti Remote software in a spotlight presentation at OPERA America's Opera Conference 2022 in Minneapolis.

Designed to facilitate live, synchronous performance from remote locations through the internet, with uncompressed, high-fidelity audio synced to less than a millisecond, the software is being offered free - in a show-ready version with all core features in place - to "lay developer" beta testers while the refinement of the product continues. To demonstrate the software's capabilities, the first 40 minutes of the company's latest digital opera, A Survivor's Odyssey, are being remounted with live remote singers, just as was done in the original presentation, and streamed into the conference.

The 1400-seat Great Lakes Ballroom has two giant screens: on the left, the opera is being presented with the digital sets that inspired the Wall Street Journal to declare: "the tech wizards ... created a remarkable new environment for operatic experimentation," while on the right is a "backstage" view of the performers, technologists and production team bringing the digital opera to life. Following the performance is a 40-minute talkback, discussing the technology.

Tutti Remote is the brainchild of Jacobs and Jon Robertson, a composer, engineer and sound designer who has been working with White Snake Projects since the middle of 2020, when he acted as audio engineer for Alice in the Pandemic. Because the company passionately believes that the excitement, community and risk-taking of live performance is a necessity for performers and audiences alike, that production took on an enormous challenge for the first time: addressing the latency issues created by singers performing live from remote locations. Singers were each provided with green screens, lighting equipment, cameras, microphones, computers, costumes, props, and so on, but the missing piece of the puzzle was to sync their live music-making. Latency, or lag, refers to the fact that each performer's audio travels through the internet at a slightly different speed. Alice in the Pandemic required Robertson's own manual efforts during the performance to get them to sync up with each other, and that process clarified the need for an automated solution.

Tutti Remote, by locking each audio feed to a reference track, automatically syncs all performers to within less than a millisecond of each other, bypassing those latency issues. The reference track can be anything: a click, a solo piano led by a conductor, a MIDI track, or anything else, according to need. Because it locks all musical timing for a production in place, other theatrical systems can also be cued using it, including sound effects, lights, projections, titles and so on in time with the music, thus the software can be equally useful as a partner of stage management for live theater.

The impossibility of live performance during the early stages of the pandemic created an immediate need for latency solutions. Many products appeared that facilitated musical rehearsing and jamming over the internet by reducing latency to more tolerable levels, typically in the range of 50-100 milliseconds but varying unpredictably and increasing over time. Tutti Remote's solution, designed for production rather than jamming, is much more precise. Useful as it is for live performance, its functionality also extends to the developmental stages of the production process, allowing a pianist and singer to rehearse together in perfect sync, for example, or a composer to collaborate with performers through easy file sharing in the cloud, all mediated by the software. This functionality also means that Tutti Remote has the potential to revolutionize the economics of making opera, enabling substantial savings in travel and housing budgets by facilitating remote rehearsals prior to live staging. Remote collaboration has significant implications for safety in the age of COVID, but Tutti Remote is far from just a pandemic tool.

From the start of the pandemic, White Snake Projects recognized that it could leverage its small size and already existing technological expertise to create solutions that larger companies would not be able to risk, with the idea that eventually those solutions could be filtered through the entire industry and beyond. Part of the company's vision is to find new ways of making opera that respond to the unique conditions of today's world and performing environment, from the fact of the pandemic to the necessity for all kinds of performers to have facility with technology, be it recording equipment, cameras or computers. Tutti Remote represents the confluence of many of those ideas, at the same time increasing the accessibility, relevance, and innovation that allow White Snake to pursue its basic mission of integrating social activism with original opera.

For more information about Tutti Remote or to sign up to be a beta user, email jon@tuttiremote.com.

About White Snake Projects

White Snake Projects is an activist opera company founded and led by Cerise Jacobs, an immigrant woman of color. Committed to integrating social activism with original opera, the company partners with other activists to cross-promote important social issues, and it redefines how opera is made by involving a variety of people from the community. It is also innovative, telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using 21st-century digital technologies, including the audio plugin Tutti Remote - whose development it fostered - that enables live synchronous performance from remote locations. White Snake Projects was inaugurated in September 2016 with Ouroboros Trilogy, a trio of grand operas including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Madame White Snake, and continued with REV. 23 (2017), PermaDeath (2018), I Am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams (2019), and the groundbreaking digital operas Alice in the Pandemic (2020), which was acquired by the Library of Congress for its Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection, Death by Life and A Survivor's Odyssey.


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