“It is a story that is really meant to take you to a very internal place.” EXPLORING L.A. LIFE Sharon moved to Los Angeles three years ago and was fascinated by Union Station, the last large-scale train station built in America and completed in 1939. He thought if they had the tools to let the audience wander freely, no other building would be better to explore the life of L.A., both its glories and its weaknesses. “There is a beautiful line in the piece in which Marco Polo says, ‘I will create a perfect city made of all the fragments of cities I have ever been to,'” Sharon said. Martin Gimenez, lead sound designer, was inspired by the audio tours by docents in museums and the “silent discos” where people gather and listen to music by headphones. But scaling those ideas to a larger space with more people was a challenge. Most of the technology was provided by audio manufacturer Sennheiser, maker not only of the headphones but also of the wireless system set up around the station so the audience experiences the music with clarity wherever it goes. The wireless system works for the performers, too. The orchestra and conductor sit in a defunct restaurant while the company roams the station for the 70-minute performance, never getting a glimpse at the conductor. Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed called “Invisible Cities” a “startlingly ambitious project” – one that “could be, and should be, done anywhere.” As the opera unfolds, Marco Polo sits at a restaurant table singing while three businessmen at the next table carry on with a conversation, oblivious to the fact that they are in the midst of performance. The words are projected on to the station wall.
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