INVISIBLE CITIES, an Opera Without a Stage – What an Unforgettable Experience!

INVISIBLE CITIES Orchestra (Photo by Kaylene Peoples)I never cared for dressing up and going out on Halloween, and as luck would have it, I was given the opportunity to see an opera, Invisible Cities, which was held at Union Station in Los Angeles on October 31, 2013. This time I made an exception. Invisible Cities is an opera without a stage, but with an audience that was more connected than any traditional platform I had ever witnessed.  I tend to lean toward chamber music, a libretto, and oddly dissonant contrapuntal writing with mixed meters.  Upon first listen, John Cage immediately came to mind as an influence for composer Christopher Cerrone when the non-traditional orchestra played the overture in Scene 1: Prologue.  People gathered around curiously wondering what would happen next, as did I.  I watched, wondered, wandered, and then awkwardly found a seat and enjoyed the opening. The avante-garde music had its appeal, and gave me the impression that this “opera” wasn’t going to be familiar in any way.  The orchestra stayed in one room while the singers where scattered throughout Union Station. What wasn’t familiar was the clean, sonic audio experience given by the Sennheiser headphones.  That was different.  It’s one thing to record and to wear headphones to cut the sound.  It’s a whole other thing to watch a live performance and have the sound so crisp, so clean, so personal, and so private.

INVISIBLE CITIES Dancer (Photo by Arun Nevader)After the opening musical piece finished, we were encouraged to follow the action.  I was with photographer Arun Nevader, who was taking pictures.  We both were a little confused as to where we were supposed to go next.  Dancers were camouflaged as regular people. Then I noticed one of those dancers had a focused look in his eyes and was doing a modern choreography.  He did a plié, then a leap and ran gracefully.  Arun and I decided to follow him.  INVISIBLE CITIES Lead Singer Ashley Faatoalia (Photo by Kaylene Peoples)He unwittingly led us to the restaurant TRAXX, where we sat in the indoor patio and placed our orders. (We couldn’t miss the music, because we were wearing our headphones.)  Little did we know that we would soon have the best seats in the house! Soon after, I was literally sitting next to the male lead Ashley Faatoalia as he sang his moving recitative. Ashley was so close I could touch him, so near me I could feel his breath while he sang.   I sipped my Pinot Noir while taking in this incredibly gifted chanteur.  I felt like I was also a participant in this opera.   It was so interactive.  I was in awe.

“ . . . I imagined the sound of a unearthly resonant and gong-like prepared piano, the ringing of bells, and wind players gently blowing air through their instruments.  All this would support a lyrical and deep voiced Kublai Khan, who is slow moving and sings with gravitas . . .”—Christopher Cerrone, Composer

I enjoyed Invisible Cities.  It reminded me of the beatniks in the 50s who expressed themselves through art and song.  It was definitely an out-of-the-box, one-of-a-kind experience, which felt bizarre at first.  But my wonderment morphed into amazement.  I was so proud that so many people embraced this art form.  It may not be the first time such interactivity was presented this way in the fine arts, but it was new to me, and I enjoyed every moment of this unforgettable experience!

Click to see more highlights from Invisible Cities.


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