“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly” – Saint Exupéry
Deconstructing opera’s mega-material roots is a challenge.
Sharing an opera live with a group of roving wireless-headphone-wearing audience members? Sounds near impossible.
And yet, The Industryambitiously tackled all this and more through its Invisible Cities project in LA’s Union Station.
Composer and librettist Christopher Cerrone’s adapted a 1972 novel of the same name by Italo Calvino. The story depicts a host of fantastical cities the explorer Marco Polo narrates to Kublai Khan – unreal cities of desire, of memory, of the imagination.
You check in and trade your license for a pair of headphones before following a drove of listeners into a large room where an orchestra sits, no singers in sight. The overture sounds forth and even before the final notes of this first movement end, individuals exit through the large glass doors to search for the rest of the opera. There’s no traditional stage here. The train station itself houses the characters, and like a living giant that seems to expand and contract as singers reveal themselves from the shadows.
A man hunched over in a wheelchair, dressed like many of the homeless souls that take shelter in the station, begins to sing. And you realize that the performers are not so much hidden at all. Instead, you did not know what you should have been seeking.
A lofty soprano tone sounds from another room. Many turn to rush to find the source of the music and discover a janitor – with a voice of gold.
You traverse cities of the living, cities of the dead.
You follow in Polo’s footsteps and happen upon a dance core (seven dancers from LA Dance Project) as they guide and affront the viewer through a collection of miniature vignettes.
You wander into a hallway – the station’s old ticket lobby – and see no action, just a mist of light fog…
…Only seconds later to be bombarded by a procession of singers and dancers as the opera’s final scenes culminate around you.
You notice how each person in the room is now a character in the piece as well. An old man in his own wheelchair is not altogether different from the singer at the start.
The piece challenges the viewer to realize that the eye creates what it wishes to see. At every new port – there is a promise of hope, discovery, release. But we bring ourselves with us wherever we go, thus in order to find new things, we must truly see with new eyes.
Per Tolosa totjorn mai. Occitan for “For Toulouse, always more”
Known as the Ville Rose (Pink City), Toulouse is aptly named for the rose-colored bricks that make up the facades of the city’s oldest buildings, even as l’ancien meets with the new.
For me, it was a city with a certain well-understood charm – a getaway for French natives in the North in search of a pause from a more pretentious Paris perhaps, or a badly needed kickstart to the everyday routine from those in the surrounding sleepier southwestern towns.
Modernity sits side by side with history as you stroll from the busy midtown walkways to duck into tiny pink cobblestoned backstreets leading towards the river. Everyone headed perpetually towards the river. The site of “Toulouse Plage” for the month (sand and beach games brought in for August), the riverside makes for a cool antidote to the August heat. I loved the outdoor markets, the streetside booksellers, the waterfront cafes, and quiet confidence of the folks there. No in-your-face-flash required, they understood well what their city has to offer.
Theatre du Chatelet, renowned Paris institution headed by Jean-Luc Choplin, recently presented Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine’s award-winning and heartbreaking SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. Lucky for those of us that weren’t able to hop on a plane to Paris during its run, the production was filmed and broadcast by Mezzo TV. And now, this new version is available to download for free, albeit for a very limited time.
The original Broadway production of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, directed by James Lapine, starring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, was similarly filmed and quickly became a staple in the collector’s canon. For those of you who haven’t seen any of the original cast, or for those that could always use a refresher, enjoy the two duetting on “Move On.”
In this number, Dot appears to her great grandson (that of her lover George Seurat), also named George, who is struggling with his art
Look at what you want, Not at where you are, Not at what you’ll be- Look at all the things you’ve done for me
The brilliant team behind Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is at it again. Director and bookwriter Alex Timbers and composer Michael Friedman have collaborated again on a modern musical retelling of the Bard’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. From the sound of this track, released yesterday on Shakespeare’s 449th birthday, the show promises to be a contemporary romp and a love letter of sorts to the inimitable writer himself.
It will take this stage this summer as part of the free Shakespearefest that descends upon Central Park’s Delacorte Theater each year. From the Shakespeare in the Park notes on the show: “Romance, revelry and enchanting music ignite in this contemporary yet lovingly faithful musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy. The King and his best buds decide at their five-year college reunion to swear off the joys of women. But when four cute, clever girls from their past show up, they’re forced to reconsider all of that nonsense! Smart, sexy, outrageous, and irreverent, LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST is a madcap celebration of true love and coming of age.”
Vibrant city-scapes? Lively mix of Eastern and Western tradition and culture? Hundred-year-old temples sandwiched between skyscrapers? Hong Kong – you really do offer a little bit of everything.
Never have I fallen for a city so fast. From first arriving and crossing a bridge into what appeared to be an amalgam of all great metropolises combined, to discovering the islands that make up this energetic hotspot – Hong Kong hooked me early and kept me wanting more.
I’m out and about this week guys, exploring and wandering around a new city. Until I’m back and can tell you all about it, enjoy a little ode to March from master wordsmith Mr. Neruda.
‘March days return with their covert light’
March days return with their covert light,
and huge fish swim through the sky,
vague earthly vapours progress in secret,
things slip to silence one by one.
Through fortuity, at this crisis of errant skies,
you reunite the lives of the sea to that of fire,
grey lurchings of the ship of winter
to the form that love carved in the guitar.
O love, O rose soaked by mermaids and spume,
dancing flame that climbs the invisible stairway,
to waken the blood in insomnia’s labyrinth,
so that the waves can complete themselves in the sky,
the sea forget its cargoes and rages,
and the world fall into darkness’s nets.
I’m out and about this week guys, exploring and wandering around a new city. Until I’m back and can tell you all about it, enjoy the petit posts.
“Is there anything, apart from receiving a large unexpected cheque in the post, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fair spring evening, loafing along unfamiliar streets in the long shadows of a lazy sunset, pausing to gaze in shop windows or at some church or lovely square or tranquil stretch of quayside, hesitating at street corners to decide whether that cheerful and homy restaurant you will remember fondly for years is likely to lie down this street or that one? I just love it. I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city.”
“It is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar.” – Anais Nin
Have you felt yourself seizing up when presented with something new? A reaction that pushes you to retreat within yourself rather than explore that novelty?
Anais Nin reminds us in her writing that it is very possible to silence such insecurities by opening oneself to unfamiliar terrain.
“When we totally accept a pattern not made by us, not truly our own, we wither and die. People’s conventional structure is often a façade. Under the most rigid conventionality there is often an individual, a human being with original thoughts or inventive fantasy, which he does not dare expose for fear of ridicule, and this is what the writer and artist are willing to do for us. They are guides and map makers to greater sincerity. They are useful, in fact indispensable, to the community. They keep before our eyes the variations which make human beings so interesting.”
Might just be your time to become a cartographer.
The cartographer’s song from the French musical Le Petit Prince. While this is one way to be a map maker, just remember that you have to let yourself out into the world to explore.
Especially it if you plan to map it out for others to navigate on their own one day.