Hopscotch, opera, Los Angeles

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


The streets of Los Angeles played host in 2015 to an audacious experiment in mobile opera called ‘Hopscotch.’ It tells an original story of a disappearance across time. Hopscotch comprised 24 live “chapters” with music by six principal LA composers.

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

In 2016, 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

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

Updated 3 Febraury 2021

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  1. Pingback: Austria: Operatic Spectacles Rise from the Lake at the Bregenz Festival

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