Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The audience wore wireless headphones inside Union Station to experience Invisible Cities.
After 21 performances inside Los Angeles Union Station, the opera version of Invisible Cities has closed.
Yes, L.A.'s biggest train station, not its opera house, served as the backdrop for Christopher Cerrone and Yuval Sharon's version of Italo Colvino's 1972 novel. Each night, 15 singers and 11 dancers performed for spectators (often in the hundreds) who wore wireless headphones while train passengers scurried about.
According to Reuters, Sharon, the director, moved to Los Angeles three years ago and quickly became fascinated with the 74-year-old Union Station. Eventually, he decided it was the right fit for "Invisible Cities", a story where, as Los Angeles Times arts critic, Mark Swed, describes "explorer Marco Polo entertains and bewilders the aging 13th century Mongolian emperor Kublai Khan with tales of travels to 55 mysterious cities."
As one can imagine, the line between performance and daily life was very blurred. A sign at an information booth read: "Please do not bother the nice person on the computer. She is part of an opera performance." The orchestra and conductor meanwhile, worked from a former restaurant space. Performers roamed the building, their words projected onto its walls.
After seeing it for himself, Swed says the concept "could be, and should be, done anywhere." Those behind the performance say it's quite likely, with cities around the world expressing interest in bringing wireless headphone opera to their train stations soon.
A member of the L.A. Dance Project performs the opera "Invisible Cities" at Amtrak's Union Station in Los Angeles November 15, 2013 (REUTERS/Fred Prouser)