Yuval Sharon’s ‘Hopscotch’ an opera on wheels

Call it the first Uber opera.
October 29, 2015

Call it the first Uber opera. 

Performed live in 24 limos, Yuval Sharon’s “Hopscotch,” which opens Oct. 31 and is scheduled to run through Nov. 15, is loosely inspired by Julio Cortazar’s 1963 stream-of-consciousness novel of the same name. With four audience members in each vehicle, it unfolds along three winding geographical routes (red, yellow and green — the colors of a traffic light) through downtown and the East Side of Los Angeles. 

So pay attention: That stranger sitting in the back seat or next to you may be one of the performers; or, as your limo turns a corner, you might miss some of the opera’s action suddenly occurring on the street. And be prepared to get in and out of a number of limos as different parts of the story develop.

Sharon, artistic director of the experimental opera company the Industry, clearly wants to shake up the passive sit-and-watch of conventional opera-going. Sharon has also shown an interest in exploring the fraying boundaries between people, different environments and technology. 

Two years ago, Sharon’s site-specific “Invisible Cities,” an operatic riff on Italo Calvino’s 1972 Italian novel, asked audience members to listen to the music on wireless headsets while following the story walking through downtown’s bustling Union Station. 

“The audience is always first,” Sharon said by phone from the central hub of “Hopscotch,” a temporary structure built in the parking lot of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). That’s where all 24 cars arrive for the “Hopscotch” grand finale after the 90-minute performance. 

“With the hub, we built a center in the middle of the city,” Sharon said. “The idea is these isolated car rides that all come together — our independent journeys coming together in one unified expression.”

Sharon said the hub at SCI-Arc allows 180 people to watch all 24 live chapters at the same time. Admittance is free, but first come, first served. 

“The story is a search for a spiritual center, and how that gets mapped geographically,” Sharon said. “It’s not a piece with a message. It’s a piece with ideas and provocations. There will be a different meaning for everyone. I’m not trying to impart my own. It’s about creating an openness to a wide range of responses without being vague or unspecific. ‘Hopscotch’ is not a riddle people need to solve.”

Actually, “Hopscotch” leans on one of the most reliable of operatic genres — the love story. It’s an urban reimagining of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which Orpheus follows his late wife, in this case, a Latina protagonist named Lucha, into the underworld in an attempt to bring her back to life. Indeed, a winding snake-like animation still from one of 10 animated chapters of the 36-chapter production route looks like the bowels of some strange car-eating creature. (The animated chapters can be viewed at ” target=”_blank”>click here.

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