Friday, 28 August 2020

Using technology to solve the problems of creating live opera in cyberspace: White Snake Projects premiere Jorge Sosa and Cerise Jacobs' 'Alice in the Pandemic'

Jorge Sosa: Alice in the Pandemic - White Snake Projects

Technological limitations restrict what performers can do regarding performing together virtually, this means that everything we hear created in Ccyberspace is carefully constructed, and that the only way to achieve a sense of communal live performance is to have everyone in the same room. 

A new opera, Alice in the Pandemic from the American company White Snake aims to overcome these limitations thanks to a team of technological innovators whose work will enable performers to perform live simultaneously whilst being separate. Led by artistic director Cerise Jacobs, White Snake plans to premiere the virtual opera Alice in the Pandemic in October. Using Jacobs libretto with music by Jorge Sosa, the work aims to be an up-to-the minute versions of Lewis Carroll's story performed in cyberspace by three singers.

But central to the problem of presenting the opera is the issue of latency, electronic delay involved between the time the sound leaves the singer's mouth and the time it reaches its source. With three singers in three different locations performing live, each receiving the accompaniment, the problem is the latency of the internet, the listener will not hear the three singers as simultaneous. As anyone who has tried to perform over Zoom knows, delays occur because transmission is mediated by the internet itself and the speed of individual computers. The result is time differences, discrepancies between the different strands of the broadcast which can be jarring. 

So, White Snake is using technology to create a solution. The various live broadcasts will be aligned (thanks to the work of Kansas City composer and sound designer Jon Robertson), and woven into a single whole (thanks to software from Virginia-based video engineer Andy Carluccio), which means that the resulting broadcast will be experienced in HD. Then there is video and CGI thanks to Curvin Huber, which adds another complex layer to the broadcast!

The performers will be soprano Carami Hilaire as Alice, counter-tenor Daniel Moody as the White Rabbit and mezzo-soprano Eva Gigliotti as Alice's mother, led by musical director Tian Hui Ng, with a pre-recorded accompaniment of strings, electronics and VOICES Boston children's choir. Music is by New York-based Mexican composer Jorge Sosa, and director is Elena Araoz.

Created by Cerise Jacobs, White Snake Projects creates contemporary American opera, combining music, cutting-edge technology, theatre and dance which debuted in 2016 with three new one-act operas, the Ouroboros Trilogy, to librettos by Jacobs with music by Zhou Long, Scott Wheeler and Paola Prestini.

Alice in the Pandemic premieres on 22 October 2020, full details from White Snake Projects.


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