Reality opera takes you for a ride

Los Angeles’s premier avant garde opera company, The Industry, with their 2013 production of Invisible Cities, a site-specific performance set in the city’s landmark Union Station, redefined what an opera could be.

Directed by the company’s artistic director, Yuval Sharon, based on the Italo Calvino novel and composed by Christopher Cerrone, Invisible Cities saw 200 viewers, listening to live music through wireless headphones, follow performers across the concourse and down the platforms, an immersive, participatory experience that became a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer prize.

After that creative and technical landmark, Sharon felt he had to raise the bar. The result is Hopscotch, which premieres in 24 cars in and around downtown Los Angeles on Saturday November 7.

“Hopscotch really grew out of the aesthetic inquiry we started pursuing in Invisible Cities,” says Sharon, a boyish 36-year-old. “So much of creating art is about trying to correct our view of reality, explore what things would be impossible. So this is really a continuation of that.”

“Impossible” is the right word for Hopscotch, a logistical nightmare of an opera that takes place along three different routes, covering 36 chapters of a story written by six writers and scored by six composers. Twenty-four of the chapters are live, 10 are animated, there’s a car wash interlude and a finale. Each route, carrying four audience members, experiences only eight of the chapters, which are not in chronological order. The cars also contain actors or musicians; sometimes the music will come out of the car stereo. Action occurring simultaneously during the 90-minute performance is broadcast live at a hub in the arts district (where people can watch the show for free), where all routes converge for the final chapter.

Although it may seem mind-boggling on paper, as a spectator it’s not hard to work out a vague narrative concerning Lucha, Orlando and Jameson. Apprentice to Orlando and Sarita, a husband-wife team of puppeteers, Lucha meets Jameson in a car accident. Eventually the two fall in love and settle down, but his work on a brainwave transmitter threatens to ruin their relationship. In time, Lucha is reunited with Orlando, whom she comforts after the death of Sarita.

Real life and performance mingle by chance, to transcendent effect. When Orlando sings a melancholy mariachi farewell to Sarita, she is painted like a Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) ghost, dancing among the gravestones at Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights. At a preview, as the lyric “At least we have each other” rises up, we happen to pass a real-life family picnicking near a grave. Later, Lucha sings her quinceañera song lamenting the fact that she must leave childhood behind and become a woman. Quinceañera is a Hispanic tradition of celebrating a young girl’s coming of age – her 15th birthday. We’re stopped long enough at a traffic light to see some tired middle-aged women emerge from a carnicería (butcher’s shop), children and groceries in tow.

“There’s a great quote by Duchamp that says the audience completes the work, and that’s been an inspirational mantra for me and the work we do at the Industry,” says Sharon – © Guardian News & Media 2015

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.


To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

The recovered remain cautious

People who have survived Covid-19 are not going through life carefree. They are still taking all the preventative measures

Lockdown relief scheme payouts to employees tops R14-billion

Now employers and employees can apply to the Unemployment Insurance Fund for relief scheme payments
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations

Senwes launches Agri Value Chain Food Umbrella

South African farmers can now help to feed the needy by donating part of their bumper maize crop to delivery number 418668

Ethics and internal financial controls add value to the public sector

National treasury is rolling out accounting technician training programmes to upskill those who work in its finance units in public sector accounting principles

Lessons from South Korea for Africa’s development

'Leaders can push people through, through their vision and inspiration, based on their exemplary actions'

Old Mutual announces digital AGM

An ambitious plan to create Africa’s biggest digital classroom is intended to address one of the continent’s biggest challenges — access to education

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday