Imagine not being told to turn off your cell phone at the opera.
Think of audience interactions with special apps providing bursts of
synchronized color on the screens of hand held devices. And imagine
special balcony seating where technologically inclined opera buffs can
live-tweet their experience.
is an engineer and music scholar who believes technological innovation
and artistic innovation are naturally linked and he is finding new ways
to bring opera into the twenty-first century.
Kim has taken a sabbatical from his post as director of Drexel University's ExCITe Center to collaborate with Opera Philadelphia in exploring how emerging technology can be woven into all phases of operatic production. As he explained to Maiken Scott at Newsworks.org,
"Music and technology have always been a part of my life. I just
couldn't decide which one I loved more, so I've continued to do both."
Kim double majored in engineering and music and also has a degree in
vocal performance practice. The ExCITe team developed LiveNote, an award-winning app for hand held devices that guides opera goers through the musical, artistic and historical elements of what's happening in some Opera Philadelphia performances.
People habitually carry so much tech around with them, Kim observed,
that it's "a little bit anachronistic" to keep asking that devices be
turned off. When Opera Philadelphia presented a free outdoor performance
of "Barber of Seville"
projected onto massive screens at Independence Mall, the audience of
6,000 got a new technological treat. Kim and his team designed a web app
that changed the color of every audience member's smart phone screen on
cue and in unison.
Kim notes operas over the centuries advanced innovations such as
pyrotechnics, trap doors, and imaginative lighting effects, so
technology, opera and audience interaction are a natural fit. Before
conventional darkened theaters existed, operatic audiences
were part of the pageantry. Kim thinks traditional nineteenth century
staging can make an opera seem remote today. We read "Hamlet" and
"Macbeth" because some human conditions are timeless, he said, and he
wants to find ways to recreate that timeless emotional connection
between opera and modern audiences. He believes technology will enrich
At Opera Philadelphia's performance of "Ainadamar," the balcony had a social media section for bloggers and Twitter enthusiasts.
Earlier this year Opera Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute participated in a global experiment
as a live performance of the robot opera "Death and the Powers
" was simulcast
from The Dallas Opera to more than ten locations in Europe and the U.S. The opera, by American composer and inventor Tod Machover
of the MIT Media Lab, tells the story of Simon Powers, a dying
billionaire who can't bear losing his family. He decides to upload his
emotions, thoughts and personality into "the system," from whence those
elements of him become absorbed into household objects that interact
with loved ones after his death. Audiences at the simulcasts received
secondary audio, video and multimedia through a specially developed app
downloaded to their handheld devices. Audiences could experience the opera
from the viewpoint of "the system," or a robot, and in addition had the
opportunity to influence visual aspects of the performance. Read a
, a discussion here
and learn about the technology here