By Emily Rust
First there was the opera and the public’s attempt to understand music in a foreign language. Next was the supertitle, English subtitles projected above the stage, making the opera more accessible to everyday folk.
Today there’s Google Glass, the next step in opera accessibility. The highly talked about tech gadget is making its first large scale debut (following Onsight Opera’s small June performance of “Pygmalion” in New York) on the opera stage at Wolf Trap’s performance of “Carmen.”
After Kim Whitman, Senior Director of Opera at Wolf Trap, was selected as a Glass Beta explorer a year ago, Wolf Trap collaborated with Figaro Systems, who first introduced seatback tilting in 1995, to discuss innovate ways to use Glass with opera.
On July 25, visitors sitting in the lawn section will be able to view translations of the French opera directly on their smartphone or Glass through MobiText.
When supertitles were first introduced in the 1980’s they were seen as the end of opera. “Some people called it blasphemy,” Geoff Webb, president of Figaro Systems says. Today Webb says an opera house won’t function without them. And now there’s Figaro System’s MobiText technology which Whitman says “sparks involvement in a new wave of supertitle delivery.”
With the ability to see English translations on a smartphone or Glass, lawn users who often are too far away to see supertitles will be able to follow along in the palm of their hand with real-time translations.
Those worried about the new technology distracting from the performance can rest assured that the night will still be focused on art. MobiText will only be available in a portion of the lawn, with the entire house and small section of the lawn labeled as “device-free.” A black screen with white text will keep phones at a low glow allowing visitors to still enjoy the opera.
Besides Glass’s ability to provide an easier view of supertitles for the lawn audience, it also adds to Wolf Trap’s history of accessibility with user able to personalize their experience allowing non-English speakers and the deaf to access the opera.
Aside from supertitle technology, Glass will also be used to put visitors onstage through the eyes of David Pogue, founder of Yahoo Tech.
Pogue will film short clips of onstage action to be available on Google + and other Wolf Trap social media. Visitors will be director to the site before and after the show as well as during intermission.
In addition, those who stayed home can view Pogue’s clips online in near real-time as well as for days after the performance.
After “Carmen,” Wolf Trap hopes to use glass in other types of performances, though as of now, the company has no definitive plans for future Glass events.
Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
1551 Trap Road, Vienna
Friday, July 25