Explore the Process

Co-Creating a Virtual Reality Community Opera

Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách aims to explore opera and what it means to contemporary audiences, experimenting with new ways to work with communities and using emerging technologies in opera. Over the last two years, we've been on a journey to create this work. Read on to see what we got up to...

Meeting the Communities

In the midst of a global pandemic, we met our participants the only way we knew how... through Zoom. Reaching out to new friends via community partners in Music Generation Offaly/Westmeath, The Civic and Conradh na Gaeilge, we met with enthusiastic creative-minded people from the west coast of Ireland to the suburbs of Dublin.

Exploring Creativity

Over 6 months we hosted a series of online workshops exploring all types of creativity relevant to opera: music, visual design, writing. Our participants explored and experimented through workshops in visual arts, led by Ceara Conway and Shane Sutton; the written word, led by Darach Mac Con Iomaire and David Lordan; and music composition with Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách composer Finola Merivale. This work generated incredible stories, imagery and sounds that would be used as the starting blocks for the opera.

Read More

Developing the Opera

Pleased to meet you…

When restrictions allowed, we were finally able to meet in person bringing our participants together with a team of creative professionals to get to work on the opera.

During the in-person workshops, we began to explore the themes that had come up again and again during the online workshops: love, grief, change, belonging, journeys, the supernatural, climate change and more.

Putting all the pieces together

They were big themes and we needed to come up with a story to capture as much as we could. So it seemed a natural step to explore myths, which contain so many strong emotions and themes. During the second weekend in Dublin, we asked storyteller and folklore expert, Sorcha Hegarty to help us explore old myths that we could use as a jumping off point. She introduced us to Children of Lir, Cliodhna’s Wave, Cessair and The Crane Bag. We played with these stories and worked as a group to condense four stories into just two. We then brought the two ‘new’ stories to Inis Meáin for a weekend back in September 2021. We spent two days working with groups on the island, and by the time we were back on the mainland, we carried with us the nuts and bolts of the story of Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách.

And then what happened?

During the autumn of 2021, the professional creative team worked to distil the materials from all the community work done to date, resulting in a clear storyline and musical direction for the opera. Regular online meetings with our community ensured they stayed at the centre of the process, sharing feedback and suggestions as the work developed. By early 2022, Jody O’Neill had completed the libretto and composer Finola Merivale started work on the composition in earnest.

Capturing Performance

An amazing feature of VR technology is that it can be used to record the movement of people which can then be incorporated into a VR experience. All our participants enjoyed exploring VR and we wanted this to be reflected in the final opera. So we worked with Virtual Reality Ireland and our creative production partners, Algorithm, to run motion capture workshops, capturing movements of community members to be translated to character animations in our virtual world. For example, the movements of an animated fish underwater actually started out with one of our participants dancing in a workshop room!

Community choirs were set up in Inis Meáin and in Dublin, alongside the Tallaght Choral Society, to rehearse and record the choral elements of the work, marking the first time many of the community members had taken part in a formal choir setting. Alongside professional singers, the community choirs perform part of the music and soundscape of Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách.

Read More

Design and Production

Along with creative partners at Algorithm, director Jo Mangan got to work creating our virtual world, bringing together the narrative, composition and visual elements from the process so far to realise Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách in the 3D environment of VR.

Professional musicians were brought into the process to workshop the score before the final recording sessions took place, involving professional and non-professional musicians in the process.

Read More

Experiencing Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách

The final opera was premiered for members of the community who helped make it on 7 August 2022 at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght. Listen to some of our community participants explain what the experience of watching the opera for the very first time was like.

Read More