Trevor Davis and Brianna Seamster at the Bradbury Building.
In this week's issue of The New Yorker I have an article about Hopscotch, the Industry's car-borne multi-composer opera. I've added a few more thoughts on the New Yorker website, alongside a slide show of Angie Smith's photographs of one of the Hopscotch routes. Here are some of my own photos and videos, inevitably of far inferior quality. They should, however, give a bit of the flavor of this astonishing event. Having been a music critic for almost twenty-five years, I sometimes find myself thinking that there is nothing new under the sun. Hopscotch put a stop to that.
The daredevil trumpter Jonah Levy, a student of Markus Stockhausen and Marco Blaauw, begins his climb up the ETO Doors tower, in preparation for the "Farewell from the Rooftops" scene, which has music by Ellen Reid and words by Mandy Kahn. Reid's opera Winter's Child was featured at last winter's Prototype Festival.
Video of part of Levy's solo, with the trombonist Tony Rinaldi answering from the roof of the National Biscuit Company building. Both players are representations of Jameson, the vanished lover of Lucha, the central character of Hopscotch. Notice the sculpture of Jameson's motorcycle at the top of the tower. At some performances, the trombone part is taken by Matt Barbier, an L.A. new-music stalwart, who has a magnificently abrasive new album called FACE|RESECTION on Populist Records.
Video of Rebekah Barton going back and forth along an L.A. River access road. Your intrepid critic waded across the river and clambered through masses of bamboo in order to obtain this angle; not recommended.
From a rehearsal of the "Hades" scene along the L.A. River, which doubles, not implausibly, as the River Styx. We are at the Bowtie, which now serves as an outdoor art park, in a collaboration between the Clockshop organization and California State Parks. The structure in which the audience sits was erected by architecture students from Woodbury University.
Yuval Sharon, the director of Hopscotch, rappels down the embankment. He is unlikely to face similar conditions on his next major directing assignment — a production of Peter Eötvös's Three Sisters at the Vienna State Opera.
"The Floating Nebula," under the North Broadway Viaduct, with the soprano Quayla Bramble and the dancer Alisa Guardiola. Playing on the speakers is a recording of members of the Trinity Youth Chorus of NYC, singing radiant music by Ellen Reid. As all these photos show, Hopscotch had striking costume design, by Ann Closs-Farley and Kate Bergh.
"A Fortune," in Chinatown Central Plaza, with Justine Aronson as Lucha. Of all the Hopscotch scenes, this is the one that most determinedly invades a public space, causing considerable perplexity among spectators. Veronika Krausas, who wrote the music, told me that at one rehearsal a passerby walked up to Aronson, who was singing of Lucha's mysterious lover, and asked her, "Who's Jameson?"
Marc Lowenstein's intricately layered score for "Orfeo," set in Sid Grauman's Million Dollar Theatre, incorporates quotations from Monteverdi's Orfeo; the tenor James Onstad, seen here onstage, sings passages from the opera while Jennifer Lindsay, as Lucha, roams the auditorium and offstage violins provide accompaniment.
From "Reunion": Jameson Cherilus as Jameson and Lindsay Patterson as the Bicyclist.
What these pictures cannot convey is the singular texture of Hopscotch, which alternates between moments of pure elation — the "Rooftops" scene is one of these, the Bradbury Building scene another — and spells of disorientation, of confusion, of psychological unease. To sit in a limo next to a woman singing is fundamentally strange: the magic of theatrical illusion is negated. This is very much Yuval Sharon's intent. He is skeptical of "immersive" theatre, citing the French philosopher Jacques Rancière, who, in his essay "The Emancipated Spectator," notes how works of the immersive, participatory, hybridized, and/or multimedia type can easily devolve into empty egotistical display or "consumerist hyperactivity." Sharon wants to jockey back and forth between onrushing sensations and a more critical, distanced perspective that he associates with Brecht. Spectators are left to piece together what they have seen; in Rancière's words, they end up “plotting their own paths in the forest of things, acts, and signs that confront or surround them.”
Corinne DeWitt, a journalism student at USC who has been documenting Hopscotch for months, has gathered much usual information at Ampersand, a website associated with the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. You can hear quite a bit of the music of Hopscotch there, alongside commentaries by Sharon.