The Kennedy Center

hubble cantata

The Hubble Cantata: A Live Virtual Reality Performance

Thursday, May 25, 2017 7:30 PM

JFK Centennial Celebration

The hour-long, space-inspired cantata pushes the boundaries of art and science as it takes audiences on a journey of wonder and exploration. It features opera stars Nathan Gunn and Talise Travigne, a 20-piece instrumental ensemble, a 100-person choir from The Washington Chorus, and a cutting-edge virtual reality film (Fistful of Stars).

Search for Current Events


The Hubble Cantata, brought to life by Metropolitan opera star Nathan Gunn, acclaimed soprano Talise Trevigne, music director Julian Wachner, a 20-piece instrumental ensemble, and a 100-person choir from The Washington Chorus, is an unprecedented live experience. The program pushes the boundaries of art and science as it takes audiences on a journey of wonder and exploration, seeking parallels between human life on Earth and the stars in the heavens. Framed by the birth, life, and death of a star--and connected to a narrative of a couple experiencing loss--the hour-long, space-inspired cantata features a cutting-edge virtual reality film (Fistful of Stars) by Eliza McNitt, music by composer Paola Prestini, and libretto by Royce Vavrek. Through his narration, New York Times best-selling author and eminent astrophysicist Dr. Mario Livio explains the larger celestial implications at stake, placing the characters' story within the grand scheme of the cosmos.

In a final gesture, this family-friendly performance incorporates special virtual reality headsets, simulating an immersive voyage through the universe, expertly created by The Endless Collective, a leading VR FX firm, with a 360-degree soundscape developed by Arup, the global leaders in acoustic and sound design. This mesmerizing live experience, co-produced by VisionIntoArt/National Sawdust, Beth Morrison Projects and Arup, reflects Livio's poignant themes and the powerful realization that humans discovered, explore, and continue to expand the understanding of the universe, and man's place in it.

The performance will be followed by a free, post-show discussion which, fittingly, takes place on the 55th anniversary of President Kennedy’s famous moonshot speech. Why Not?: Exploration and Creativity will feature Paola Prestini, Dr. Mario Livio, and Eliza McNitt in conversation with Elena Park, director and curator of National Sawdust+.

Download the app & virtual reality film prior to the event for the full experience!
Cardboard VR headsets will be given out at the event and will only work with the app. To enjoy this portion of the performance:
1) Download the Fistful of Stars app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store before the performance.
2) Open the Fistful of Stars app and completely download the VR film.
3) Open the Fistful of Stars app when you see "Astronauts, Get Ready!" on stage (approximately 45 minutes into the show).
4) Press the "play" button in the app when you hear the countdown reach "1."
5) Insert your phone into your cardboard headset. Be sure to look around in all directions and enjoy!

You may attempt to connect to the free KCPublic Wi-Fi network at the event to complete these downloads, but please note that they may not finish in time to fully enjoy the experience. We strongly encourage you to download the app and VR film before the event to ensure that you can participate in this exciting element.