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U.Va. Music Professor’s Telematic Opera, ‘Auksalaq,’ Makes Its World Premiere

Following a postponement last fall due to Hurricane Sandy, the University of Virginia will host a reprise of “Auksalaq: A Telematic Opera,” an award-winning composition that uses networking technology to link performers and audiences around the world, on Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. at OpenGrounds.

The opera, by Matthew Burtner, an associate professor of music in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences, and media artist Scott Deal, links performers and audience members in different cities using advanced telematic technology, which allows performers to collaborate via the Internet in real time. 

The opera debuted in October, but U.Va.’s public performance was canceled due to weather. The Feb. 11 reprise will involve The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and Lu Magnus Gallery in New York, as well as the U.Va. location.

The performance is free and open to the public, and those interested in attending should RSVP to Lindsey Hepler at lhepler@virginia.edu.

Auksalaq, the Inupiat word for “melting snow/ice,” provides an in-depth journey into the vast and remote, yet rapidly changing, arctic regions of Alaska and Canada. The work integrates artistic expression, scientific information and social/political commentary into an interactive, multi-dimensional collection of narratives that provides a stirring and sobering commentary on the transformation of the Far North as a result of global climate change.

Interactive audience-participation software called NOMADS, designed and built by U.Va.’s Interactive Media Research Group, enables engagement with the performance in real-time across all the stages. Audience members are encouraged to attend the concert with their mobile devices in order to participate (Android and iOS tablets and phones, or laptop computers).

In October 2011, Internet2, the nation’s most advanced networking consortium, presented the Internet2 Driving Exemplary Applications (IDEA) Award to Deal and Burtner for their creation of “Auksalaq,” which the organization described as “the single best and most important realization of meaningful opera for today’s world.”

The Washington performance is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Phillips Collection – a Washington arts space – and U.Va., and is co-produced by the two institutions. The Phillips Collection and U.Va. initiated the partnership in 2010 and have supported “Auksalaq” throughout its development.

Recognizing that connections between science and art are the building blocks of our future, and that creativity and innovation are at the heart of human curiosity and expression, this partnership exemplifies how museum-higher education collaborations can set the stage for the birth of new ideas, organizers said. The OpenGrounds initiative at U.Va. is designed to catalyze such interactions more widely.

“Auksalaq” is supported by Jeannie and Tom Rutherford; The Phillips Collection; at U.Va., the offices of the Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Vice President for Research and Vice Provost for the Arts, the OpenGrounds Initiative, the McIntire Department of Music, the Virginia Center for Computer Music, Arts & Sciences Research Support and the Buckner W. Clay Endowment for the Humanities; at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, the Donald Tavel Arts and Technology Research Center and the Department of Music and Arts Technology; the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and its Arctic Region Super Computing Center and the International Arctic Research Center; the George and Eliza Gardener Howard Foundation; and the North by 2020 Forum for Local and Global Perspectives.

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