Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Composer Annie Gosfield says re-working Orson Welles’ famously shocking 1938 radio drama War of the Worlds was “kind of a dream project.” Not only is Gosfield’s version an opera being staged at Walt Disney Concert Hall, it’ll also use three newly reactivated World War II air raid sirens on the streets of downtown LA as speakers. Performers stationed at the sirens will send live reports of the “alien invasion” back to the concert hall.
Christopher Rountree (LA Phil New Music Group Conductor for “War of the Worlds”) & Annie Gosfield (Composer, “War of the Worlds”) | Photo by Susie Goodman
The production gets its world premiere here in Los Angeles on November 12th—a collaboration between the LA Phil, Now Art LA, The Industry and The Industry’s founder Yuval Sharon. Conductor Christopher Rountree will conduct the LA Phil New Music Group and a talented cast of soloists including Hila Plitmann, Suzanna Guzman, Joanna Lyn-Jacobs, Hadleigh Adams, Jon Lee Keenan, David Castillo, James Hayden and actor Hugo Armstrong.
Gosfield has LA roots. She told me she attended USC in the 1980s and was a part of the city’s punk scene. I caught up with her backstage at Walt Disney Concert Hall to talk about her approach to War of the Worlds and how she researched what it might sound like if aliens were jamming our radio signals. Conductor Christopher Rountree joined our conversation as well and talked about the challenge of bringing all the elements of the performance—from unseen airplane pilots to off-sight performers to singers on stage contained in a plexiglass cube to the orchestra—together.
Click below to listen to Annie Gosfield and Christopher Rountree discuss War of the Worlds.
Yuval Sharon is no stranger to inventive site-specific opera productions. His experimental opera company The Industry has staged productions inside LA’s Union Station and in cars roaming the streets of Downtown (the opera Hopscotch). He told me it was air raid sirens that inspired this whole War of the Worlds project.
Yuval Sharon (Concept, Direction and Text Adaptation, “War of the Worlds”) | Photo by Susie Goodman
Click below to listen to Yuval Sharon discuss War of the Worlds on a KUSC Out and About: Bonus Podcast.
The world premiere of War of the Worlds is Sunday, November 12 at 2PM. There are additional performances November 18 at 12PM and 2PM. You can attend a performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall or at one of the three siren locations, each featuring a different character. Click here for tickets.