Muse of the Underworld: A Virtual Reality Opera
Muse of the Lower World will be a short, virtual reality (VR) opera based on the half-woman, half-bird sirens of Greek mythology that used their beautiful voices to lure sailors to their deaths.
In Greek mythology, the Sirens were seductresses who lured sailors with their enchanting voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Originally they had been maiden companions of the young goddess Persephone, but when Hades, god of the underworld, abducted Persephone, the sirens were given wings to search for her. When they were unsuccessful in finding her they were cursed to spend their days upon the cliffs luring sailors to their death.
In our retelling of this myth, the siren laments her fate, and her inability to escape the cruel life to which she’s been cursed. On this day she pursues two sailors, but she’s challenged by one of them to show mercy. She considers the request, longing to be compassionate and take control of her destiny. She knows that this kindness will mean her death, but asks, “Will not this death, sweeten life, in these last breaths?”
Because the siren is a hybrid creature it’ll be necessary to film her in a green screen studio and have an animator create her bird body.
We will shoot live action footage amongst the Mediterranean cliffs where we'll use a static camera as well as a drone to capture the siren’s point of view as she intercepts the sailors. We’ll also place a camera on the boat with the sailors and use an underwater housing to film from beneath the boat as the sailor dives into the water to go to the siren.
This video shows some of the development process as we prepare for production.
A workshop performance was held on October 23, 2017 at Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena. The project was chosen to be presented as part of Stereopsia, an international VR symposium (organized in collaboration with the Hollywood-based Advanced Imaging Society) held in Brussels in December 2017. The project was featured in Stereopsia's "3D Film Booster" program, which is designed to help independent producers to find financing and to reach their market and audience.
We shot some of the VR landscape "backgrounds" in France in July 2017 and hope to soon begin production in the studio where we will film the performers in front of a “green screen.” The 3D animators will utilize this footage to form the siren's bird body and these elements will then be “composited” with the landscape background footage.
In this VR work it is our intent to allow a full immersion into all aspects of the opera. We imagine that this opera would be viewed not only on a VR headset but also in a “Digital Dome” with or without a live orchestra. If utilizing the headset the viewer would be able to inhabit the world of the narrative, while also having the ability to transition to watch the orchestra perform. It is possible that this could also be utilized in a more traditional theater space as well.
This document has the scripted action and libretto. The timing cannot be determined by page count as the music takes considerably longer than the dialogue and lyrics.
This is an early draft of the musical score written by Emer Kinsella. Please contact me for the latest draft.
Lauren Han, soprano
Lauren will perform the role of the siren in Muse of the Underworld. She is an opera singer, actress and model. She has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Bel Canto Institute in Florence, Italy. Lauren has won numerous awards for her singing. These awards include first place in the 2016 NATS-LA Competition, the performance award at the 2015 Bel Canto Institute and first place in the 2012 Los Angeles Young Musician Awards.