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Audiences Get A Modern Look At A 19th Century Opera

Who says Google Glass, tablets and smart phones don't mix? Not Wolf Trap.
Courtesy of Wolf Trap
Who says Google Glass, tablets and smart phones don't mix? Not Wolf Trap.

Opera fans will get the opportunity to see Bizet’s classic Carmen through a modern lens this month. For the first time, the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is giving audience members the option to use Google Glass, smart phones, or tablets to access translations during the play.

Senior Director of Opera Kim Witman says one of the reasons people are turned off by opera is because of the language barrier. In an effort to attract more people to the French-language performance, she says opera-goers will now be able to read English translations in real time on their devices instead of looking at supertitles on the screen near the stage. She notes that in-house projections will still be used.

“This just takes this translation process and makes it very personal,” she says. “It sort of brings it into your own little sphere, as opposed to having to look above the stage to get that.”

In addition to the translation aspect, she says people are curious about what happens in the wings and dressing rooms and what performers see when they’re looking out into the house. To give viewers an insider’s perspective on what goes into a show, Witman asked technology expert David Pogue to wear Google Glass both backstage and on stage before, during, and after the performance.

“You can integrate it seamlessly into everything that happens naturally backstage and onstage during the performance,” Witman says. “It doesn’t involve taking extra equipment around; it’s just more integrated into the process.“

Before the curtain rises, Pogue will be taking photos and video of the performers and uploading it to Wolf Trap’s Google Plus landing page. Witman says part of the reason for incorporating this imagery into Carmen is that theater lovers enjoy seeing videos and pictures from backstage.

“When the Metropolitan Opera does their movies called The Met: Live in HD, one of the features that they have on it is that they go backstage and have a little conversation with someone behind the scenes,” Witman says. “So that’s kind of the content that the opera fans are getting used to having delivered. We’re just delivering it in a different way.”

But despite the excitement surrounding this new approach to delivering translations and a peek behind the scenes, Witman says it’s important to keep the spotlight on the show. “It’s a very exciting theatrical and musical thing, and this is just a small piece of technology that enhances people’s enjoyment of that main event,” she says.

Carmen will be on stage at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center for a one-night-only performance on July 25.

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