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San Diego Opera Announces Winning Proposals For OperaHack 2.0

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International online ideation summit explored how technological innovations can enhance the production, presentation, and consumption of opera.

San Diego Opera Announces Winning Proposals For OperaHack 2.0

San Diego Opera has announced the winning proposals from the Company's second "Opera Hack," a month-long online interdisciplinary event for music/theater and technology experts to explore how technology can be applied to the production, presentation, and consumption of opera. The hack, which was conducted online, was held June 4 through July 2, 2021 and attracted international participants. The winning proposals were each awarded $5,000 from an Opera America Innovation Grant supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

"At the conclusion of our second Opera Hack, I'm once again amazed by the creativity and ingenuity displayed by the many participants," shares San Diego Opera General Director, David Bennett. "We challenged them to come up with innovative ideas that explore how new technology can advance the production of opera, and they certainly delivered. I look forward to seeing the impact of these ideas on our industry in the future."

The winning proposals are:

· Real-Time Theater Engine: XR Show Control for Unity: New forms of virtual performance were developing even before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down venues around the world. Access to virtual reality headsets and mobile phones with AR capabilities has increased and adoption of game engines for the creation of narrative, time-based, projects has spread. Audiences have expanded their performance-going routines into the virtual space during lockdowns, and a growing pool of pioneers from the performance world is making new work for these new formats. For example, in a number of recent productions staged in VR, remote audience members convened in a virtual space to watch and participate in a live performance. In order to port into headsets, phones, and internet browsers, much of this work must be built inside a game engine or other programming environment not ideally suited to performance. XR Show Control for Unity is a cue-based plug-in for creating live or interactive XR performance work inside the Unity game engine due to its flexibility and interoperability across operating systems, thus transforming it into a theater engine. This project is created by Lisa Szolovits, Ian Garrett, and Charles Coes.

· Performance Stock Exchange: The main roadblock cited in any inventory tracking is how to facilitate the time and labor to implement an inventory solution. This proposal focuses on developing the robust sharing networks the industry hopes to see in the future. Rather than leveraging technology to create individual company inventories, the Performance Stock Exchange will map regional resource systems to strengthen sharing networks. A networking website would facilitate the sharing and renting of costumes, props, scenery, lighting, sound and media equipment. Current sharing paradigms are based on personal relationships and institutional knowledge, which means resources are overlooked or inaccessible if designers do not know they exist. Shops, companies, and individuals would create a self-managed profile with geolocation and respond to a brief questionnaire on the details of what they have to share. They will have the option to be as detailed as they feel comfortable with and are encouraged to upload photos or connect to their existing virtual inventory (Google Drive, Flickr Gallery, Individual website) for designers, shoppers, managers, assistants, and others to browse, saving valuable time and resources. Even a minimal profile would provide contact information and location so traveling designers would know what resources exist in the area. The proposal will also explore ways to build a reliable renting reputation system for both Renters and Providers to ensure equipment is cared for. In addition, this platform will provide standard rental agreements, pricing, and a self-checkout system for all transactions. Standard practices will streamline the borrowing process and simplify budgeting. Routine borrowing will strengthen sharing networks and encourage reuse as the challenge requests. In time, each rental source will have a robust visual database for renters to search. The project is created by Kristen P Ahern and Amy Sutton.

· MusiCue: Opera and theater performances often have to deal with hundreds, if not thousands, of cues every show. Throughout the theater tech process, stage managers constantly update cues for designers (lighting, sound, projection, props, etc.) and actors as cues are created, edited, shifted, deleted - all while keeping track of their location in the score or libretto. Currently, there is no industry standard that allows designers and stage managers to automate that process. There is a need to better streamline the exchange of information so that extended time is not taken up by headset communication, document management, and conversation outside of rehearsal. MusiCue allows for sound, video, and lighting designers to push cues to a stage manager with automation, as they are created, via the networking protocol OSC (Open Sound Control). OSC is compatible with the majority of industry-standard programs for designers (including QLab, Watchout, Isadora, and EOS Lighting Boards). It also allows for the pushing of cues to be toggled on/off, allowing designers to build and test looks. Once the designer has confirmed their current batch of edits, cues are sent to the stage manager and are sorted in-client by Act number, Scene number, and Measure number. From there, a stage manager is able to customize, annotate, and edit the information being received. Each designer is able to fully customize their display, so that they are able to view the 'Master Cues' document in the manner that is most helpful to the tech process. MusiCue significantly minimizes the bottleneck of stage manager tasks during tech, reducing stress, time, and cost in the most time-sensitive portion of the rehearsal process. These advantages also extend to designers, as they are able to all be in closer visual communication regarding where musical and textual shifts are happening. This software-centric solution focuses on ease of use and flexibility for the user. As designers and technicians ourselves, we wish to see Musicue consolidate needless redundancy and enable better, more productive collaboration. This project is proposed by Camilla Tassi and John Horzen.

26 proposals were ultimately submitted, comprised of multi-disciplinary participant teams, who were mentored by an Advisory Panel that includes Jennifer Dautermann, founding director of Classical:NEXT; Sarah Ellis, Director of Digital Development for the Royal Shakespeare Company; Ryan Hunt, Lead Software Engineer with the Walt Disney Company; Steve Lukas, Director of Product Management, XR Ecosystem at Qualcomm; and Vita Tzykun, award-winning set and costume designer of opera, theatre, and film, founding member of the GLMMR art collective, and Executive Creative Director at SENSEOS.

Opera Hack 2.0 was made possible by an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. OPERA America's Innovation Grants support exceptional projects that have the capacity to improve the vibrancy of opera in the field's most important areas of practice. These grants invest $1.5 million annually, enabling organizations to increase their investment in experimentation and innovation, and contribute to field-wide learning.

San Diego Opera 2021-2022 Season

Stephanie Blythe in Concert Saturday, October 23, 2021

Michelle Bradley in Concert Saturday, November 20, 2021/Sunday, November 21, 2021

Arturo Chacón-Cruz in Concert Friday, December 3, 2021

Così fan tutte Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart February 12, 15, 18, and 20(m), 2022

Roméo et Juliette Charles Gounod March 26, 29, April 1 and 3(m), 2022

Aging Magician Paola Prestini May 13 and 14 (evening and mat), 2022

For more information www.sdopera.org.


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