Crescent City, a hyperopera was a unique multi-media production combining opera, art installation, video art and live performance. The collaboration between many different types of artists proved a huge but exciting challenge. By blurring boundaries between disciplines and integrating the elements in a giant, empty warehouse, a complex cityscape emerged inhabited by both audience and performers. The result was a meaningful event exploring the devastation of natural disaster and the human desire to heal despite socio-economic and political barriers.
Anne LeBaron’s opera tells the story of a mythical town loosely based on New Orleans. In the aftermath of Hurricane Belle, Crescent City is a lawless ghost town: marauding Revelers call the Junk Heap home, while drag queens, drug addicts, and a lone policeman try to survive. A disturbance in the air resurrects the voodoo queen Marie Laveau, who emerges from her tomb to discover that another hurricane threatens to destroy what little is left of Crescent City. Marie Laveau summons the voodoo gods and begs them to save the city. They agree to do so only if one good soul can be found remaining in the town. The opera becomes a travelogue, as the voodoo gods come down to the town to search for the city’s salvation.
Director, Yuval Sharon, creatively staged the production in an immersive multimedia spectacle where every vantage point offers a unique perspective. Audience risers and seating surround the city allowing freedom to move around the city or to sit and watch the performance. Set Designer, Sibyl Wickersheimer, acts as city planner creating an installation as a symbolic crossroads to connect the other 6 installations created by fellow fine artists, Mason Cooley, Brianna Gorton, Katie Grinnan, Alice Könitz, Jeff Kopp, and Olga Koumoundouros. Each artist creates a part of the full set by focusing on one major element of the city; a junk yard, a hospital, a cemetery, a dive bar, a shack, and swamp. Elizabeth Harper designed the lighting within the installations as well as for the performance space throughout the city. Ivy Chou designed costumes, Jason H. Thompson designed the video content and live projections, and Martin Giminez was the sound designer.
Anne LeBaron’s electronically-infused music weaves together zydeco, gospel, voodoo drumming, and ancient Korean traditions to create an unforgettably phantasmagoric score. Douglas Kearney’s rich libretto creates characters through a strong Southern vernacular and Marc Lowenstein conducted the orchestra of 18 and led a cast of eight singers.
Crescent City, a hyperopera epitomizes the themes of PQ15 by illustrating the delicate connective tissue holding together the infrastructure we take for granted in our cities. Rich historical, cultural, and familial ties are stretched to the breaking point while man-made shelters are torn apart and attempted to be rebuilt in a harsh and evolving natural environment.