“Opera Calling” (2007)
Hacking the Opera – Arias for All!
Zurich. 2007. You are at home. The phone rings, you answer, at the other
end of the connection there is an automated voice: ‘This is the
autonomous opera telephone of Zurich. For your pleasure and
entertainment, we have placed a bug in the Zurich Opera. In a few
moments you will be connected live to the opera house. You can lay back
and listen to today’s performance of Der Rosenkavalier by Richard
Strauss from the comfort of your living room. Enjoy!ʼ The live broadcast
from the opera house begins immediately. You can follow the ensemble
through the telephone line – the sound rattles slightly – or you can
hang up; then an intermediary computer uses a generator to decide at
random which Zurich household is to be called next.
In Opera Calling the !Mediengruppe Bitnik intervenes with the Zurich
Opera system, whereby they hide bugged telephones in the opera hall.
Through this direct transmission, a virtual listening room is created
that stretches beyond the premises of the opera house in the form of a
‘home delivery service’.
The Zurich Opera launched a search for the bugs and in a first reaction
threatened to take legal action if the transmissions were not stopped
and the bugs removed. There followed a debate in the media over cultural
ownership and cultural subsidies. Eventually the Zurich Opera decided to
tolerate Opera Calling as a temporary enhancement of their performance