The Invisible Opera literally gives you a grandstand seat to the comings and goings in Melbourne’s CBD. With seven rows of tiered seating in Federation Square, in front of you is Flinders Street station. From there, you watch the world go by. That, for me, was a most unusual experience, because when I am normally in the area, I am going somewhere (namely to the football, a show, a movie or shopping). In other words, I am just passing through.
In this case, you are presented with a set of headphones, which over the course of 50 minutes or so, appears to accentuate the sounds around you. And then there is narration and light classical music. Created by Australian multidisciplinary artist Sophia Brous, I found The Invisible Opera an awareness building exercise. Brous has worked in collaboration with theatre makers Lara Thoms and Samara Hersch, along with New York choreographer Faye Driscoll to highlight our surrounds. The vocalisation is mostly soothing and well spoken, gravitating towards the sung. Mind you, there is also discord.
The Invisible Opera started with a bang and I still don’t know whether the whole thing was set up. Let’s put it this way, if it wasn’t, it was a remarkable coincidence, because first up was a colourful protest rally. Then we heard the typical sounds you would get on a train platform, ahead of pedestrians crossing the road. Reference was made to distant drums, a light breeze, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest observation deck, to skyscrapers, cranes and plane trees. The minutiae included venetian blinds and an ashtray.
The eagle-eyed narrator definitely commented on people walking into Federation Square and along Swanston Street because I followed her references. While we were there, K-pop performers strutted their stuff, as did a BMX cyclist and a footballer wearing tap shoes. We also witnessed the passing of a popcorn float and the emergence of a large purple gorilla inflatable. Such is the life of a city and its inhabitants and visitors, which, thanks to The Invisible Opera, I was able to focus on more closely than ever before.
I enjoyed the show, which ended with us getting up from our seats and walking closer to the edge of Federation Square. The Invisible Opera, part of the Rising festival, is on until 12th June, 2022. For tickets, go to https://rising.melbourne
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Kaleidoscope (Arts Centre Melbourne forecourt) – theatre review
- Bowie & Mercury Rising (Chapel Off Chapel) – theatre review
- Puttin’ on the Ritz (touring) – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.