MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts


Although I didn’t have a chance  in Los Angeles to experience the Hopscotch opera phenomenon firsthand, I’m trying to catch up vicariously. My colleague Alex Ross has written extensively and enthusiastically about this mobile opera, even calling it “a high-tech work of Wagnerian scale.”

Ross explains that the title “was taken from Julio Cortázar’s 1963 magical-realist novel, which invites the reader to navigate the text in nonlinear fashion.” As for its impact, he declares that Hopscotch “triumphantly escapes the genteel, fenced-off zone where opera is supposed to reside.”

At The Wall Street Journal, Heidi Waleson writes that “the experience is atmospheric rather than narrative, with each chapter a surprise and a plunge into the emotional character of the moment.”

Hopscotch‘s director Yuval Sharon, founder of the experimental opera group The Industry, “has broken the fourth wall with a vengeance, not merely freeing opera from the opera house, but making its heightened expression the sound of real, everyday and inner life,” Waleson concludes.

Mark Swed’s Los Angeles Times review, on the other hand, is more hesitant about what he views as a “hyped” production: “‘Mobile opera’ and ‘city pieces’ have been around for a while,” he reminds us. “…Operas with multiple composers and librettists, like Hopscotch, go back to the Baroque.”

“The actual experience of the opera is to be lost,” notes Swed. And indeed the complexity of the jigsaw puzzle fragments that are part of the whole story as well as “the engineering feat of making it all work are all part of the cool factor that has given the opera international attention. I, however, found nothing cool about riding around in a limousine through economically disadvantaged parts of L.A. These appallingly tacky vehicles are designed to keep you far removed from your environment.”

Swed’s proposed solution for the “self-involved, isn’t-this-cool response” Hopscotch has been eliciting?

I never thought I’d say this, but the first epic L.A. opera requires not artificial immersive reality but virtual reality. Let the Industry assemble all the episodes as transmitted to the Hub, all the animations and all the expendable material together online (or on an app or disc), and Hopscotch will surely and with irresistible suitability become the first exceptional hyperopera.











Filed under: directors, new music, opera companies

River Walk Renaissance


My feature on the birth of a new company, OPERA San Antonio, appears in the current issue of LISTEN. I can include only the teaser here (the full article is behind a paywall):

In today’s performing arts climate, the launch of a new American opera company is bold enough to seem downright contrarian. But nothing got in the way of OPERA San Antonio’s official inauguration in September with a stylish production of Fantastic Mr. Fox — one of a series of events to ring in the city’s glistening new arts palace on the River Walk, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. Tobias Picker’s family-friendly opera, based on the beloved story by Roald Dahl, turned out to be a shrewd choice…

Filed under: American opera, essay, opera, opera companies

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