Opera review: Being there at "Hopscotch"


By Richard Casey

"Hopscotch," a different approach to opera from director Yuval Sharon: Ride around L.A. in an automobile, performers in car with you. Several stories. Stop here and there for more scenes. Three different routes with different action.

Sounds promising.

Here's my memory of the experience I had; for you it might be totally different.

First we're in a small mobile home, and the lady in a housedress is cutting up some vegetables and dropping them into a pot that's boiling on a hot stove, and a dude in a smoking jacket is reading. She sings and he reads aloud. I'm sitting next to the guy, and I lean over to see that he is not actually reading the book; he is reciting lines that he has learned. Three musicians are in this small space too, and it's hot. The lady gets excited, angry, and she starts slamming the knife into the cutting board as she cuts the vegetables. Then she throws the vegetables into the pot, and the hot water splashes out, and she yells like she got burned. I'm hoping the hot water doesn't splash on me.

Now we are in a limo with a woman who's on the phone. A big old blue plastic phone with a rotary dial. Driving through the city. We are the passengers. Mixing memory and something.

Next we're riding with a gypsy fortune teller. Does she have a wicked deck of cards? Now we're in the plaza in Chinatown. Musicians in gowns are playing among the tourists and shoppers. Two twins in gowns are singing. Now here's another singer, the fortune teller. I'm thinking that this must be a Happening; I've been transported to 1965.

An underpass. Huge arch of concrete over an empty industrial landscape. The motorcycle. I've read some of the program notes, and I believe that someone is killed/has been killed riding on a motorcycle. So I think this scene must be about death. There's a dancer in quasi-motorcycle duds who has wonderful gymnastic moves, and the music is great and somber, and it bounces off the hall of concrete, and the woman next to me is singing -- it really is an opera -- and she's great. Did I mention that she is standing right next to me? And just then the train rumbles by; we're right under the tracks, and you know what train that is.

We're back in the limo. A lady -- as I remember it -- is playing a flute. Over the Sixth Street bridge, then swing back toward the L.A. River. Sitting in the Cool Quiet Black Limo with that music and Boyle Heights moving by us like a '53 Chevy, I feel that I'm in Cocteau's movie "Orpheus," riding through the land of the dead. This is the kind of experience that doesn't happen very often.

There's more: A Sergio Leone Western with witches and villains with masks and a guy who appears from I-don't-know-where in the middle of the desolate L.A. River. More Cocteau. Excellent use of locations. You think that you are there.

The ride back features a discussion between a businessman riding with us and a fellow traveling alongside on a motorcycle. Theme stuff. What is L.A.? What is an automobile?

The last scene, we share the limo with a romantic couple. They sing, "Never end never end never . . . end . . . never . . . end . "

You can see multiple live images from the various routes simultaneously at someplace called the Central Hub. I didn't check it out.

What I like is being there.


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Details at www.hopscotchopera.com; tickets for Nov. 21-22 go on sale Thurs., Nov. 5, at 10am.

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Richard Casey directed the films "Horror House on Highway 5," "Hellbent" and "Horror House on Highway 6." He has also directed music videos by Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Aldo Nova and others.