Credit Google Cultural Institute/Palais Garnier
Stand, virtually, on the stage of the Palais Garnier, among the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet. Use your mouse to manipulate a 360-degree video that allows you to see them from many angles as they perform Benjamin Millepiedâs âClear, Loud, Bright, Forward.â Or journey to Stratford-upon-Avon, where you can try to keep up with a frenetic Alex Hassell of the Royal Shakespeare Company as Henry V, exhorting his troops to go âonce more unto the breach.â
Or go onstage at Carnegie Hall, where the video places you smack in the middle of the Philadelphia Orchestra as they play a rousing âIn the Hall of the Mountain Kingâ from Griegâs âPeer Gyntâ Suite under the baton of Yannick NÃ©zet-SÃ©guin. Face forward for a playerâs-eye view of the conductor. Turn around to watch a flutist put on his glasses or the strings as they build to a crescendo or the percussionists as they prepare their arsenal for the big finish.
The 360-degree videos are part of an innovative assemblage of performing arts groups that went online on Tuesday morning at the Google Cultural Institute, a free website that made its name in recent years by digitizing and displaying the collections of more than 800 art museums and historical archives. The Google initiative is now moving into the performing arts, and this exhibition is the first fruit of its partnerships with more than 60 groups from around the world â with the groups providing the content and Google providing the gee-whiz technology.
Continue reading the main story Video by Carnegie Hall
âWhat Iâm hoping is that they will realize that thereâs much more to being on the Internet than just capturing a video and uploading it to YouTube,â Amit Sood, the director of the Google Cultural Institute, said in a recent video interview from London (via Google Hangouts, naturally). âThatâs important, for sure, but the idea here is to provide narrative, to provide behind the scenes, to provide context.â
Arts organizations â like modern politicians, news organizations and commercial products â are finding that these days they must take an active role in finding their audiences, rather than sitting back and waiting for audiences to come to them. To that end, the Google project is part of a broader effort â using social media and other tools â to reach people who might be interested in their work but who would be unlikely to visit the homes (or even the home pages) of the Paris Opera, the Royal Shakespeare Company or Carnegie Hall.
The partnership came about in part, Mr. Sood said, after he had a conversation with Clive Gillinson, the executive and artistic director of Carnegie, who asked him why Google could not do for performing arts institutions what it was already doing for the visual arts.
Mr. Gillinson said that he was excited to be able to use the reach of Google to share the hallâs work with audiences from around the world and that he was pleased that the 360-degree video would allow people to engage with the performance in a new way. And Christopher Amos, the chief digital officer at Carnegie, said that Carnegie, like several other groups, planned to embed parts of the exhibition on its own website.
Mr. Sood said that early on Google learned that several features drew in viewers: an ultrapowerful zoom that allowed them to look at artworks or historical places in incredible detail, and a version of Street View, like the technology used on Google Maps, which allows them to take virtual tours of places like the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
âWe look at it from a fishing standpoint,â Mr. Sood said. âThe hook, for most people, seems to be the zoom and the virtual tours. But what surprised me is that when they get exposed to an exhibition, youâd be surprised to know that people actually spend time there, reading it.â
Those tools will be used in some of the performing arts exhibitions as well. An ultra-high-resolution gigapixel image of the ornate ceiling of Stern Auditorium, which is composed of more than one billion pixels, allows viewers to zoom in so close to the ceiling, 83 feet above the parquet floor, that they can see which light bulbs have scorch marks and whether the belly buttons of the winged cherubim are innies or outies. (They are innies.)
And the Street View tour lets people see the view in Carnegie from different seats as well as the wings and the orchestra room behind the stage where the members of visiting ensembles unwind on leather sofas and the walls are lined with posters advertising long-ago concerts featuring Herbert von Karajan, Georg Solti and Leonard Bernstein, among others.
Armchair â or desk chair â travelers can take virtual tours of other places as well, from the Philharmonie in Berlin to the sign at the box office at the Vienna State Opera that reads, in English, âTodayâs performance sold out.â
The groups participating in the new exhibition include American Ballet Theater, the American Museum of Magic, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Metropolitan Opera, the Rome Opera and the Berlin Philharmonic. Some exhibitions are much more detailed, and technologically advanced, than others.
Mr. Millepied, the director of the Paris Opera Ballet, has brought a spirit of technological adventure to the ballet, where he started a website earlier this year called â3e ScÃ¨ne,â or âThird Stage,â which showcases films of original works.
âI do use and do believe in using digital media to present dance to the largest audience possible,â he said in a telephone interview, adding that he believed that the ability to present a dance from multiple points of view at the same time had fascinating possibilities.
âNow I think it would be the time,â he said, âto think about creating work specifically for the technology.â