The opera is based on Italian writer Italo Calvino’s eponymous 1972 novel, an epic exploration of cities real and imagined framed in prose poetic conversations between the explorer Marco Polo and the aging Mongolian leader Kublai Khan. Composer and librettist Christopher Cerrone penned the score that explores “sonic qualities of decay and lushness.”
A number of CalArtians are participating in the staging of the experimental opera. The Herb Alpert School of Music faculty member Marc Lowenstein, with assistant Andreas Levisianos (Music DMA 15), conducts an 11-piece orchestra that includes trombonist Matt Barbier (Music MFA 10), violinist Eric KM Clark (Music MFA 06), percussionist Jodie Landau (Music BFA 15), harpist Jillian Risigari-Gai (Music MFA 12), cellist Derek Stein (Music MFA 10), pianist Richard Valitutto (Music MFA 11), clarinetist Brian Walsh (Music MFA 08) and flautist Sarah Wass (Music MFA 03). The LA Dance Project led by choreographer Benjamin Millepied completes the experience with site-specific dance.
The German audio company Sennheiser provides attendees with wireless headphones, through which they hear eight singers scattered throughout the LA transportation hub. They are free to wander around the historic building, the music always in their ears, immersing them in a highly private experience in an extremely public place as they seek out these “invisible” performers. Lead sound designer E.M. “Martin” Gimenez (Theater MFA 09) and sound technician Veronica Mullins (Theater BFA 15) work with the cutting edge audio technology to make sure that not even a whisper from the opera singers is lost.
Stage manager Rita Santos (Theater BFA 15), marketing outreach coordinator Mitchell Colley (Theater BFA 11) and general manager David Mack (Theater MFA 08) bring all of the elements of this avant-garde opera together.
In an article published in KCET’s Artbound, experimental opera company The Industry’s artistic director Yuval Sharon talks about the process of this ambitious work, from selecting a train station as a site for opera to the audience as the last element that finishes a work of art:
The performance at Union Station will be as close to immaterial as opera can allow while remaining a live experience. You will be offered a pair of headphones and move through the station—which is not closed to its everyday traffic. The singers and dancers will be all around you, but you may not ever see them. The headphones and Sennheiser’s wireless technology will always keep you connected to the story, so what you hear will be the same as everyone else; but what you see will belong to you alone. The performance will become your experience, with no wrong choices: everyone will miss something, and everyone will have a perfect view. There will not be anything to explain.
Artbound has teamed up with The Industry to produce an original series about Invisible Cities. The feature provides an in-depth look at the one-of-a-kind opera through exclusive articles, photos and video. The program culminates with an hour-long Invisible Cities feature airing on KCET on Dec. 12 at 9 pm.
Below, we have posted a preview from Artbound’s Invisible Cities.