Invisible Cities

Los Angeles Review by Willard Manus

The Industry, L.A.'s first avant-garde opera company, recently mounted its third production in two years, INVISIBLE CITIES, directed by Yuval Sharon and conducted by Marc Lowenstein. The 75-minute work, adapted by composer Christopher Cerrone from the novel by Italo Calvino, was performed in L.A.'s historic train terminal, Union Station. Built in 1939, it was the last major terminal built in the USA, a vast and elegant Art Deco structure that sits on the eastern edge of downtown L.A.

Those attending the site-specific opera were fitted out with headphones which enabled them to listen to the opera as they wandered from place to place in the station, pursuing one performer or another as the story unfolded. The opera's characters included such personages as the Mongol emperor, Kublai Khan (Cedric Berry) and the Venetian explorer, Marco Polo (Ashley Faatoalia), plus a bunch of raffishly-dressed minor folk, some of whom were indistinguishable from the people hanging around the terminal, waiting to make train connections.

In INVISIBLE CITIES Kublai Khan rues the fact that his once-great empire is now "a vast and formless ruin." He looks to Marco Polo to explain how and why his home city has become "an inferno."

To entertain him, Polo conjures up fanciful tales about some of the great cities he has visited over the years. When Kublai Khan asks him why he left Venice off that list, Marco Polo explains that cities must be fashioned out of imagination and desire. The three cities he offers as prime examples are Isidora, where young lovers are watched over by the old; Armilla, a sylvan paradise where nymphs splash about in the canals; and Adelma, where the dead are resurrected.

The ruminative and often twee exchanges between emperor and explorer did not make for a compelling or suspenseful story, but the opera's music and singing made up for those deficiencies. Cerrone's score shimmered with lyrical warmth and tenderness, and

the vocalizing was of an equally high order, rich with one touching, heartfelt aria after another.

Most memorable about INVISIBLE CITIES was being able to participate in it in such an unusual and personal way. It was a head trip to end all head trips. Through November 8. Visit