LA’s ‘Hopscotch’ – Experimental Opera of the Freeways

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The streets of Los Angeles played host last year to an audacious experiment in mobile opera called ‘Hopscotch.’ The recording will be released on January 13, 2017, and a concert will take place on Friday, January 20 (7:30 pm) at the University of Southern California’s Newman Recital Hall. 

Hopscotch, opera, Los Angeles

A typically intimate limo performance, with Kirsten Wiest, Cassia Streb, and Lauren Baba.
Photograph by Angie Smith for The New Yorker

Mobile Opera: A Revolution in Sound and Performance

Last year, Los Angeles experienced the groundbreaking opera “Hopscotch,” a creation by an experimental production company called The Industry. Described as a “mobile opera in twenty-four cars”: audience groups rode three simultaneous routes in limousines, and witnessed scenes at sites in downtown and eastern L.A., telling a single story of a disappearance across time. Artists and audiences shared a confined space, and in a larger central hub, where all the journeys were live-streamed to create a dizzying panorama of life in Los Angeles.

“It’s a little like Alice in Wonderland,” actor-musician Trevor Davis said. “Doing it over and over, I’m disappearing into this alternate universe.”


Mobile Opera “Hopscotch” – MOMENTUM Artists & Headphones | Sennheiser

The creation comprised 24 live “chapters” with music by six principal LA composers – Veronika Krausas, Marc Lowenstein, Andrew McIntosh, Andrew Norman, Ellen Reid, and David Rosenboom – to texts by six writers, but inspired by a Julio Cortázar’s surrealist novel (from Argentina) of the same title. The librettists—Tom Jacobson, Mandy Kahn, Sarah LaBrie, Jane Stephens Rosenthal, Janine Salinas Schoenberg, and Erin Young—worked in consultation with Joshua Raab, who served as the dramaturge of the project.

“But what is memory if not the language of feeling, a dictionary of faces and days and smells which repeat themselves like the verbs and adjectives in a speech, sneaking in behind the thing itself, into the pure present, making us sad or teaching us vicariously…”  — Julio Cortázar, Hopscotch

Hopscotch, Jim Farber

In “Hades” (Chapter 26 of the Green Route) music by David Rosenboom, text by Erin Young, Rebekah Barton (as Lucha) longs for Jameson (Nicholas LaGesse) along the Los Angeles River (Styx) (Photo by Jim Farber from San Francisco Classical Voice)

In addition, ten animations with music by gnarwhallaby were posted online to offer the basic points of the story to all audiences. Although an overall narrative emerged, a version of the Orpheus myth with the genders reversed, each group saw the chapters of this non-linear work in a different order. Other sources included “Paradise Lost,” Goethe’s “Faust,” and the Situationist writings of Guy Debord. All told, more than 100 singers, musicians, and dancers performed.

Citing one of his formative influences, Zen composer John Cage, The Industry opera founder Yuval Sharon said in FastCoCreate, “Theater exists all around us and it’s the artist’s job to notice it. I’m interested in using opera in the city as a springboard for some kind of sublime event.”


Hopscotch: An Opera for the 21st Century – KCET Artbound


HOPSCOTCH RELEASE EVENTS

Panel Discussion
Friday, January 20 (4 pm)
Wallis Annenberg Hall (ANN), Room L105A
3630 Watt Way, Los Angeles

A fascinating conversation with arts journalists about producing live performing arts in L.A.’s public spaces, and listening to the music of an opera outside of its original context. Panelists include composers Veronika Krausas and Marc Lowenstein, Yuval Sharon of The Industry, and arts journalists Mark Swed and Sasha Anawalt (moderator).

Hopscotch in Concert
Friday, January 20 (7:30 pm)
Newman Recital Hall (AHF)
3616 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles

RSVP begins December 7, reserve tickets at http://crue.usc.edu/visionevents/visionsEvent_localist.php?event_id=679104

This special evening emceed by director Yuval Sharon will be the first live concert of songs from the opera. Six chapters from the work will be performed (one from each of its six composers), including the expansive choral finale by Andrew Norman.

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Planners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt