Opera from the inside out

Irish National Opera


Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách

The world’s first Virtual Reality Community Opera

Premiering at

Kilkenny Arts Festival

Tuesday 9 to Sunday 14 August

Also at

Dublin Fringe Festival

Friday 12 to Thursday 25 September

Irish National Opera’s new Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách is as close as you’ll get to an opera for the people and by the people. It’s the world’s first virtual reality community opera, and it has been developed over three years in conjunction with diverse Irish communities – residents of Inis Meáin, teenagers from rural areas across the country, and a cross section of people living in Tallaght and South Dublin.

The work is a fully immersive, 360-degree digital experience. What people see on their headsets becomes a reality which they can investigate and explore in all directions. It’s also an opera they can literally experience anywhere, because they carry it around on their heads. And their interaction with the work will also influence the endings that they see.

The opera is being shown for the first time at Kilkenny Arts Festival from Tuesday 9 to Sunday 14 August and Dublin Fringe Festival from Friday 12 to Thursday 25 September. Because the virtual reality headsets obscure the outside world, the opera will be shown to small groups in a controlled environment, with multiple showings each day. The space and all of the equipment will be fully sterilised between showings. The opera is open to people aged 14 and upwards, but is not suitable for people who are pregnant or who have a range of medical conditions. For a full list see User Considerations on http://outoftheordinary.irishnationalopera.ie/en/experience-the-opera

Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách, composed by Finola Merivale to a text by Jody O’Neill, is directed by Jo Mangan and features soprano Daire Halpin and mezzo-soprano Naomi Louisa O’Connell. Their work is blended with choral and instrumental contributions from the communities involved, as well as the professional instrumentalists of the Irish National Opera Orchestra.

Composer Finola Merivale says:

“It was an honour to be invited to compose Out of the Ordinary/ As an nGnách. I also felt some trepidation… what even is a community opera in virtual reality? There were so many unknowns. The creative process that unfolded was certainly the most challenging — but also the most rewarding — experience of my career. I worked closely with our three inspiring communities across a series of workshops (via Zoom from Manhattan, mid-pandemic) before we finally met in person. It was humbling to be part of this beautifully collaborative experience. I am deeply grateful to everyone involved and am delighted to finally be able to share this with the world.”

Director Jo Mangan says:

“Coming to the end of an incredibly involved process is always a wrench, but this one ran across all the lockdowns, was completed against the odds with colleagues as far flung as New York, and Inis Meáin. Being part of the vanguard of a burgeoning medium in these last few years has left me incredibly proud of the work put in by so many creatives and I am excited to hand it over to audiences to unravel and relish. It has been an honour to work with Irish National Opera, Finola Merivale and the entire team on this project, bringing to life the imagery, story, music, animation and movement from our community partners in VR for Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách.”

The narrative and theme of the work ecology, nature and a fight from danger were developed out of workshops held around Ireland, both in-person and online, when the pandemic prevented face to face meetings. The creative team worked with the participants, and developed the composition, narrative and design through conversation and collaboration.

Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách transports the audience to an imagined world created through animation. And it offers everyone the ability to move around in and interact with opera in the novel surroundings of a virtual-reality environment. The project was realised by creative production studio Algorithm with support from Virtual Reality Ireland. During the co-creation this ground-breaking work won the coveted Fedora Digital Prize which is supported by leading global management consulting from Kearney.

Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách was developed as part of TRACTION, a project involving nine international partners that was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 initiative. The project brings together experts from the arts, technology and academic sectors to research and develop new technologies and search out new ways to involve local communities in opera. Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách is one of three pilot projects in Ireland, Portugal and Spain that are testing these new processes.

James Bingham INO’s studio and outreach producer, who devised and managed the project, says “It’s been exhilarating to work in such uncharted waters and I’m delighted that after nearly three years developing this piece we’re finally able to share it with the public. We’ve had communities totally new to opera input into the creative processes in every aspect of this work. We’ve handed power over to the people of Ireland and let them decide on the story they want to tell as well as how the opera should look, sound and feel. These ideas have been shaped by our fantastic team of professional artists and the result is a unique and unprecedented work of art.”

Terry Madigan, CEO of VR Ireland says:

“This has been an incredible project to be a part of. We worked in a highly collaborative way with professional and amateur artists. And we have been to the wilds of the Atlantic on the island of Inis Meáin off the West coast of Ireland where we performed our most remote motion capture workshop using full body motion capture, including cutting-edge hand, finger and facial sensors to capture the full range of bodily movement which brings to life our virtual characters. This is all enhanced using Ambisonics or ‘spatial audio’ and beautifully immersive environments to represent the wonder of the narrative expressed through the libretto and musical composition.”

Mikel Zorrilla, head of Digital Media & Communications at Vicomtech and project coordinator of TRACTION, says:

“It is amazing, after almost three years, to be so close to the premiere of Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách. I am sure it will be an amazing and unique experience. Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách is one of the three community operas created under the TRACTION project. They all have a strong focus on technology and each has been brought into being through very different co-creation scenarios. Irish National Opera is being ground-breaking with a novel format of delivering opera for the people, created collaboratively by the people. Everyone with an interest in participatory art, opera and new, technology-driven formats will want to experience the world’s first Virtual Reality Community Opera.”

Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách has seen Irish National Opera work closely with three key communities over the course of this project: adults living in Tallaght in partnership with The Civic, the residents of Inis Meáin in partnership with Conradh na Gaeilge, and secondary school students living in rural locations across the country.

Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách will have six daily performances at Kilkenny Arts Festival (noon, 1pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm) between Tuesday 9 and Sunday 14 August and at Dublin Fringe Festival from Friday 12 to Thursday 25 September. It will then tour to all 32 counties on the island of Ireland.

Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách is presented as part of TRACTION and has received funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870610.

For more information on the project see http://outoftheordinary.irishnationalopera.ie/en