Yuval Sharon's Not-So-'Sweet Land'

The Frame


Sharon is used to getting some pretty baffled looks when he tries to explain the work of his opera company which is called the industry. Sharon's hopscotch for example took place inside cars driving around L. A. In invisible cities people listen to his opera on headphones as they move through. La's Union station. Sharon's latest piece is called sweet land. It's a collaborative air opera about colonialism. And displacement is set in the La State historic park which is just north of downtown in sweetland opera is used to challenge and dismantle some myths about America's origins. Here's Yuval Sharon. I have been speaking a lot recently about opera. This country being a remaining colonialist art form because so much of opera that we see in this country is the German French Italian repertoire in those languages telling those stories and here we are in America Retelling the stories over and over again and it seems like especially in our times now when there is so much to talk about and there is such a need for artists to be speaking about the kind of things that that we've taken on with this project and so much more. It seems strange to go into the privileged sphere of an Opera House and hear a story about nineteenth century. Italy There's something about that that feels so escapist And feels like it's a. It's trying to pretend like the situation out on the street in our daily lives. is not as dire as it really is So I think that that was for me. A real push to try and create a piece like like sweet land and one of the most important aspects of it was creating the conditions for collaboration To really flow something that would be not another iteration of a kind of hierarchical leadership But the idea that a more horizontal consensus based process would be something that I could offer a kind of antidote to some of the problems that we're talking about before we talk about the story and the music I wanna ask you about the venue it said in the La State historic park and this was native land. It was home to the San Gabriel Band of mission Indians then. It was the site of the Southern Pacific Transportation Companies River Station where migrants from around the world would disembark trains Ryan and now it said against the skyline of downtown Los Angeles next to a metro track next to the one ten freeway. There's like a little wine store across the street. It's got so much history. Why was it a good place for you to set the story to me when we were conceiving of this project we were thinking about the right site for where this this piece should take place and of course we started thinking about things like warehouses or alternative spaces but but you know still interior spaces and I was hearing from my collaborators over and over again how much The relationship to land with such a crucial aspect of what they wanted to explore with this piece and when it comes to that relationship with land it seemed to me that one of the one of the one of the places that that really hold so much of. La's cultural history and meaning. Is that sliver of land? That is now the state historic park. you mentioned it's a couple of its iterations but it had so many others for a long time. It was considered a Brownfield as if Meaning that they didn't think that anything could grow on it anymore because of how terribly it was maintained during industrialization during the railroad era So so thinking that. And it wasn't until Lauren. Bon came up with not a cornfield project. This really bold experiment in kind of replanting The land showing it's continuous fertility Before that people sort of abandoned it and thinking that that was the most important tongue village that it was the site of this crucial Spanish settlement that it was this a flood plain all of those things for a while were buried under layers of industrialization and thanks to Lauren and th thanks now to the park. It has It has this new life to it but those layers Still struggle to come out those voices that are still part of the archaeology that layering effect. That's in the land Still has a lot of voices that have been suppressed and a big part of what the opera was about was not to pinpoint any one particular language or one particular story to lift up but instead to think about and to invite the audience to contemplate Those stories that are in the land that were

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