What might a possible opera of the future look like? As the human genome becomes increasingly manipulable, we can imagine, for instance, the return of the male castrati singer - castrated, as it were, in advance, belting a perfect treble into middle age. Singers could be bred to sing impossibly high or impossibly low. One can imagine singers with such voice boxes they could be heard for miles around. The architecture of opera houses need no longer be so enslaved to acoustics with such singers. Picture a single performer on stage, singing both tenor and bass, harmonising with himself through two different larynxes.
To be just a little more down to earth, The Merce Cunningham dance group has already performed on stage with digitally projected 'virtual' dancers. For some years now, Cunningham's company used the Lifeforms software, so it was said, in order to experiment with movements the aging Cunningham was no longer able to perform. As the notion of 'augmented reality' becomes increasingly popularised, such imagery could become more commonplace. Before very long we could have the audience projecting their own translations of the libretto onto the heads of the people in front, in whatever language they chose, with optional pop up notes on points of interest in the music as they come up. One can imagine it eventually possible to recreate, in a manner that would appear as solid and three-dimensional as reality, any of the special effects and grand virtual set pieces we see at the cinema, live and on stage. With such possibilities, why would anyone chose to keep staring at a screen? Cinema tickets are already more expensive than tickets to the opera.