'Hopscotch' Opera Jumpstarts Traveling Concert Scene Hopscotch is a new opera that does just that — it literally hops from location to location across Los Angeles. Cars shepherd the audience and the performers from place to place.

'Hopscotch' Opera Jumpstarts Traveling Concert Scene

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Producers want to put people in seats. In Los Angeles, an experimental opera company is staging a new work where the people already are in seats - in cars and driving them to locations all over the city. The opera's called "Hopscotch." It's the creation of The Industry opera company. It's being performed over four weekends this month. Michelle Lanz of member station KPCC went along for the ride and the arias.

MICHELLE LANZ: A day or so before I'm scheduled to attend a preview of "Hopscotch," I get an email with GPS coordinates of where I'm supposed to go.

COMPUTER GENERATED VOICE: Turn right onto Scott Avenue.

LANZ: Google Maps takes me to the top of a hill overlooking Dodger Stadium in downtown Los Angeles. There's a "Hopscotch" flag and an Airstream trailer marking my destination. And I get into one of the 24 cars that are carrying audience members on the opera's three performance routes.

YUVAL SHARON: Every single car ride is kind of a different opera. It's 24, 10-minute operas, basically (laughter).

LANZ: Yuval Sharon, artistic director of The Industry opera company, explains that on each of the three routes, there are eight stops where scenes, or chapters, of the "Hopscotch" story are performed. And just as they would any day in LA, the audience is getting in and out of cars a lot.

SHARON: That was a key part of the concept, too, was that every time you switched cars, you felt like you were going into a different universe. A different sound world, you know, different artists, obviously, because they can't be in more than one car at a time (laughter), you know? Some of them have prerecorded music with a live singer in it. Some of them have 13 musicians involved. You will never know what to expect when you get into the next car.

LANZ: That's right. Along with four or five other audience members, you'll get into a car and find opera singers, violinists, saxophonists and, possibly, this guy, who plays inside the limo while actors perform at their location outside.

PHILLIP KING: I am Phillip King, the anointed beatbox harpist. My role is I am the harpist in the limo that the audience is riding with while they are watching the scene in front of them. And that scene is being miked into the limo, and I'm, like, the background music right there. And they will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience with me being - you don't really get beatbox and harping too much (playing harp and beatboxing).

LANZ: As you might expect, the logistics posed a few challenges to the six composers commissioned to write the music. Marc Lowenstein is one of them.

MARC LOWENSTEIN: It's mostly acoustics. You have to know what a limousine is capable of. And we didn't know that. I mean, you would think a car is a very dead acoustic space, as most of our cars are. But a limo has just enough space that the singers can really sing and sing lightly, and it's wonderful. And string instruments sound good. It's difficult, physically, for them to play. And guitars sound wonderful. So those are some things we learned in the process. For me, personally, it took a lot of work to figure out what would work compositionally.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, singing) (Unintelligible).

LANZ: Your traveling concert hall takes you through the city to the next location and the next scene. Production manager Ash Nichols is responsible for coordinating the 94 crew members and 128 performers.

ASH NICHOLS: It's an opera, but it's also very much like a new play. It's also very much like a film shoot with 24 locations. And it's kind of got a foot in every world. We've got dancers. We've got in aerialist. We've got actors and opera singers.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character, singing) Can you tell me why?

LANZ: The story they tell, created by six writers, involves a Mexican-American puppeteer, car accidents, a near-death experience, traffic jams, the jet propulsion lab, a fortune teller and a fraught relationship.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character, singing) What's left if Jamison's (ph) gone? How can I live in perdition alone? While my flesh burns, I can only wait for him.

LANZ: To get the whole thing, you'd have to buy tickets to all three routes, and they sold out pretty quickly. But you can watch it for free on 24 screens right around a temporary structure downtown called the Central Hub.


LANZ: But "Hopscotch's" mastermind, Yuval Sharon, says it was designed to be experienced from inside a car.

SHARON: We want the audience to be surprised. In many ways, the core idea of this project is a sense of disorientation, quite literally. So if you get into a car and not knowing the destination, how does that change the way that you view the city?

LANZ: If definitely changed the way audience member Tammy Silver (ph) views Los Angeles.

TAMMY SILVER: It was so peaceful and interesting. And it made me look at the city, passing by in our little capsule of a car, hearing opera music and maybe a flute or a violin and realizing nobody else knows what's going on in this car. And that's kind of the way life is here in LA.

LANZ: Going in many different directions at once, hopscotching. For NPR News, I'm Michelle Lanz in Los Angeles.

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