Space opera: ‘Hubble Cantata’ brings galaxy into focus

Nebulatic high: Viewers can get an up-close look at this nebula in the virtual reality portion of “The Hubble Cantata” in Prospect Park on Aug. 6.
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See the stars while under the stars!

An astronomical music show will makes its earthly debut in Prospect Park on Aug. 6. “The Hubble Cantata,” performed as part of the Bric Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, will combine iconic images of stars and galaxies from the Hubble telescope with orchestral music, science, and virtual reality. The composer of the piece says she is happy to finally see it all come together.

“I’ve been working on this for four years and this is the final result,” said Paola Prestini. “It’s a dream come true — I’m really excited to see the Hubble images in virtual reality.”

During the roughly 50-minute show, images from the orbiting Hubble will be projected on a screen while a cast of 120 people — including an orchestra, several opera singers, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus — perform Prestini’s music. But during the final few minutes, viewers can get a multi-dimensional view of the intergalactic images through virtual reality headsets. The event will hand out 6,000 cardboard headsets, designed to work with an app on viewers’ smartphones (the app, titled “Fistful of Stars” should be available a few days before the show). It will show 360-degree images of the Orion nebula, synced to match the music and informative narration from astrophysicist Dr. Mario Livio, according to Prestini.

“With [virtual reality], people will get into it scientifically and visually,” said Prestini. “There will be interludes of Mario speaking on the birth, life, and death of a star. My hopes are that it is both educational and an experience of a lifetime.”

The show is a sort of farewell to the Hubble, said Prestini, because the telescope will take a back seat when the new, more advanced James Webb space telescope launches in October 2018.

The composer hopes that more people will be able to “The Hubble Cantata,” but the high budget for the show means that are no definite plans for another performance.

“Hopefully it will happen — it does cost a lot of money to put together,” said Prestini.

The experimental Brooklyn band Tigue will open the evening.

“The Hubble Cantata” at Prospect Park Bandshell [enter at between Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Park West in Prospect Heights, (718) 683–5600,]. Aug. 6 at 7:30 pm. Free.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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