Imagine arriving at a train station and discovering a man singing beautifully to himself. But what if he were singing to 200 people all over the station who were listening to him, seven other singers, and a live orchestra via wireless headphones? That’s the concept behind Invisible Cities, an immersive opera experience, first premiered in Los Angles at the historic Union Station in 2013. Invisible Cities, presented by The Industry in partnership with the LA Dance Project allowed the audience to roam freely through an operating train station, pursuing individual characters or creating their own story. Set in LA's historic Union Station, the audience experienced the live performance via top-of-the-line Sennheiser wireless headphones with crystal-clear sound technology, surrounded by the uninterrupted everyday life of the station.
Based on Italo Calvino’s beloved novel and hauntingly set by composer Christopher Cerrone, Invisible Cities is a 70-minute meditation on urban life, memory, and human connection. Director Yuval Sharon’s concept makes each audience member the protagonist of the experience in a transfigured view of everyday life. Choreographer Danielle Agami draws the audience into an uncannily intimate proximity to the LA Dance Project.
Italo Calvino’s fantastical novel imagines a meeting of the emperor Kublai Khan at the end of his life with the explorer Marco Polo. Khan orders Polo to report on the cities in his empire, and Polo’s responses are flights of fancy, cities of the imagination and the mind. The opera depicts the meeting and describes three chimerical cities with a quiet stateliness that offers the audience a chance to contemplate the essence of travel, as well as our subjective experience of environment and time. The use of headphones makes this meditative experience a highly personal event for each and every spectator.
Cerrone’s fragile, quiet score attempts to capture “decaying sounds” through the use of found objects as instruments and pre-recorded voices interweaving with live voices. In Yuval Sharon’s concept for an “invisible” production, all the singers will sing live in various spaces throughout the performance site, appearing and disappearing into the everyday fabric of the building. The instrumental music is a mixture of live and prerecorded performances.
Invisible Cities was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music and the subject of an Emmy-winning documentary produced by KCET.