WATCH: This Virtual Reality Exhibition Puts You Onstage With Opera Colorado

January 6, 2018

Put on a virtual reality headset at the Next Stage Collaborative gallery in downtown Denver and suddenly you're onstage for Act III of Opera Colorado's "La Bohème," standing outside a tavern in Paris with snow falling.

"Experience La Bohème" immerses you in the dramatic art form of opera using virtual and augmented reality technology. It's a partnership between Opera Colorado, University of Colorado Denver's College of Arts and Media and Boulder VR company Hypercube.

Another place you are transported is a chorus rehearsal, as artists prepare for Giacomo Puccini's popular opera about young artists falling in love in Paris.

"The big thing that we love about virtual reality is that it gives you the ability to go to places that aren't practical or possible," says Hypercube founder and technologist Mark Anton Read, who helped with the 360 camera work.

Photo: Experience La Boheme exhibition creative team
From left to right: CU Denver professors Michelle Bauer Carpenter and Travis Vermilye with Mark Anton Read, of the Boulder VR company Hypercube, collaborated with Opera Colorado and CU Denver students to create this exhibition. 

Fifty-six CU Denver students worked on the exhibition for two months. Michelle Bauer Carpenter, an associate professor who teaches digital design the university, guided these students through the process, along with her colleague associate professor Travis Vermilye. She says virtual reality can't replace a live performance, but it can make opera more accessible to different audiences.

"If you can bring this to a gallery, to a school, to the foyer of the opera, and let people have a glimpse of what happens in a live performance," Carpenter says, "I think that's an incredible thing to be able to do."

Photo: Opera Colorado VR exhibition_augmented reality
Michelle Bauer Carpenter, and associate professor of digital design at the University of Colorado Denver, demonstrates an augmented reality display at the Next Stage Collaborative gallery exhibition "Experience La Bohème" on Dec. 29, 2017.

Most of the CU Denver students working on the exhibition had never seen an opera before.

"Experience La Bohème" runs through May 2018 at the Next Stage Collaborative gallery located at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.