Opera takes place in 24 moving cars

Hopscotch, an opera production that takes place in 24 cars simultaneously, is the brainchild of director Yuval Sharon and his team. He is with assistant stage manager Katherine Paez (left) and actress Jane Rosenthal (right).
Hopscotch, an opera production that takes place in 24 cars simultaneously, is the brainchild of director Yuval Sharon and his team. He is with assistant stage manager Katherine Paez (left) and actress Jane Rosenthal (right).PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

LOS ANGELES •On a recent Friday afternoon, Yuval Sharon gestured enthusiastically at one of many television screens mounted inside a circular wooden structure under construction in a large parking lot in this city's Arts District.

He and his team at the Industry, the experimental-opera company he started in 2012, were in the midst of completing the Central Hub, the centre of their ambitious new production: Hopscotch, what they are calling a "mobile opera in 24 cars", which unfolds across Los Angeles beginning last Saturday and running till Nov 15.

You buy a ticket and are instructed to arrive at a certain location at a specific time, perhaps across the street from a boarded-up synagogue in the Hispanic neighbourhood of Boylan Heights.

A limo pulls up, an attendant gestures you inside and the opera begins. Singers, actors, instrumentalists and dancers - 128 performers are involved in the production - transform the city around you as you are driven around, occasionally changing cars, going for a stroll in a park or being guided through a building.

Enter a vehicle and encounter a cellist; step out of a car and watch a saxophone quartet play in the hills of Griffith Park. The opera's 24 vignettes take place along three distinct routes - all running simultaneously - so each experience of the piece remains just a partial snapshot of the opera's elusive whole.

For the Industry, a company that emphasises its relationship to Los Angeles, an opera in moving vehicles was a natural next step after its acclaimed 2013 production of Invisible Cities, which placed its performers almost unnoticeably in the middle of Union Station's commuter bustle and had audience members listen in over headphones.

Back when Invisible Cities was mired in logistical difficulties, Sharon and his designer began discussing their next project. "We thought, how can we inspire ourselves by proposing something even harder than Invisible Cities that will hopefully keep us going?" he said. "What else would feel like a project that could happen only in Los Angeles? And, of course, we started thinking about driving, and cars, because it's so crucial to the city's identity."

For those dissuaded by the price of Hopscotch - tickets start at US$125 (S$175) - there is also that Central Hub, outside the Southern California Institute of Architecture, free to enter, that simultaneously streams live audio and video from all 24 of the opera's chapters in a circle of screens.

The audience travelling the main routes are given hand-held cameras for several scenes and can film the action themselves. The final performance of each day also concludes at the Hub, where limos take the audience and musicians for a final chorus.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2015, with the headline 'Opera takes place in 24 moving cars'. Print Edition | Subscribe