As Experienced at the La Jolla Playhouse’s 2022 WOW Festival
The Show & How it Works:
Two female opera singers walk through Liberty Station, singing a capella. You and the rest of the audience follow.
Why it’s Interesting, IMHO:
The idea of opera-on-the-move is exciting, and I was intrigued by its intention to incorporate location into the performance.
Initial Impression & Critical Discussion:
I was excited to see the singers in suffragette costumes — but I couldn’t see them for long. One of the challenges with only two opera singers and an audience of, perhaps, thirty, is that most of the audience can’t see the singers the whole time. Fortunately, their voices carry.
Among the coolest things about this performance was the costume change between songs. The singers literally stepped out of their dresses, leaving them on the ground for a crew member to retrieve. The challenge this presented was that the opera singers, now stripped down to contemporary attire — think yoga pants and tie-dyed t-shirts — became hard to identify between songs, especially since most of the audience hadn’t seen them that closely to begin with. Ultimately, this was okay; while it had initially felt like Ascension might be a show, revisiting the description, I’m reminded that it really is simply two songs. And it was exciting when the performers then happened upon costumes — camouflage military fatigues set on a park bench —that they stepped into for their second number.
Ascension’s intention to have the procession highlight pictures and plaques commemorating American history may have literally gotten lost in the shuffle. The audience at the front of the line could see the singers, but not the rest. As a result, most of the audience couldn’t tell if any artifacts were being singled out or emphasized by the performers, and they were likely too preoccupied trying to track the singers to think about looking for other things. While it wasn’t apparent—from the show description or the show itself—how many pictures or plaques the show might have intended to highlight, the final image was unmissable: a nice big mural commemorating the naval station, which the performers very successfully drew attention to as their performance came to a close. The singing was beautiful and felt meaningful.
Experiential Viewpoint Expression (E.V.E.):
Embodied, 3rd person visual, 3rd person narrative, non-entity, mortal
Who Should See This?
I’d recommend this to anyone. The running time was 15 minutes, not 30 as publicized, and the journey is merely a walk around the block. To hear some live opera, get a little exercise and witness a freakin’ awesome costume change, it’s worth it.