Finnish National Opera Sets Go Virtual with XR/VR Tech

By Chris Ruel
Image: Finnish National Opera

The Finnish National Opera and Ballet (FNOB), in collaboration with XR/VR technology leader Varjo, made history as the first opera house to use immersive technology throughout the entire production process.

FNOB used Varjo Aero virtual reality headsets and the “XR Stage” tool to create the entire set for Puccini’s “Turandot,” from the proof-of-concept phase to the final production. XR Stage, developed with Unreal Engine by the opera’s technical staff, creates an immersive, photorealistic 3D setting, enabling the creative team to work on the set as if they were there. The virtual models mirror the set in size and appearance.

The production was co-produced by Malmö Opera in Sweden, and through virtual collaboration, material and labor costs went down, international work trips between Helsinki and Malmö’s stage production teams were reduced, and workplace safety was enhanced.

According to the press release, twenty percent of budgeted labor costs were slashed, and 1,500 hours were cut from the production. The technology saved FNOB around €75,000.

“After 20 years of modeling lights, our technical team recognized we needed a more efficient solution to provide our artistic teams with faster and better quality results. Our artists were only open to using virtual tools if models would be photorealistic and it was an intuitive user experience,” said Timo Tuovila, production and technical director of the FNOB, in an official press release. Tuovila continued, “Varjo’s VR/XR technology enables just that. We have been able to create a digital twin of our stage that actually is true to life, matching the expectations of our ambitious artistic and technical teams.”

“Turandot” has a 12-show run from January 27 to March 4, 2023. Audiences can stream the production for free here.