the mile-long opera

June 5, 2018

For five consecutive nights this fall — October 3-7, 2018 — 1,000 singers from across New York City will come together on the High Line for the world premiere of the mile-long opera — conceived by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro and David Lang, with music by Lang, text by Anne Carson and Claudia Rankine and staging by directors Elizabeth Diller and Lynsey Peisinger. Audience members will be active participants in this ambitious work as they walk along the park: moving in and out of groups of singers, the audience will be immersed in hundreds of stories inspired by the accounts of a wide range of New Yorkers, about life in our rapidly changing city.

A team of artists, professional and recreational singers, public space advocates, and community and business leaders have come together to create the event. At the heart of the opera is an extensive community engagement initiative, organized by Peoplmovr, along with the High Line, in collaboration with non-profit cultural organizations across all five boroughs: Abrons Arts Center and the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce in Manhattan, ARTs East NY in Brooklyn, Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement in Queens, The POINT CDC in the Bronx, and Snug Harbor in Staten Island. Each of these partners serves as a hub for engaging local audiences by recruiting singers, holding and welcoming the public for open rehearsals and workshops, and hosting social and cultural events in the lead-up to the October performances.

The event, called “The Mile-Long Opera: a biography of 7 o’clock”, was conceived by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro and David Lang. Acclaimed poets Anne Carson and Claudia Rankine are writing the text, inspired by real-life stories, many of them gathered through first-hand interviews with residents throughout the city, asking what 7:00 pm means to them. While 7:00 pm almost universally represents a time of transition from day to night, when people shift from one activity to the next, these conversations reveal a vast spectrum of feelings and perspectives—and, by extension, represent the diverse character of the city’s inhabitants and their individual experiences.

Lang is setting Carson and Rankine’s text to original music to be sung by the immense chorus, led by conductor Donald Nally. Elizabeth Diller and co-director Lynsey Peisinger will stage the performance along the entire length of the elevated park.

The event challenges conventions of what opera is and whom it is for. Set in a public space, the opera invites all New Yorkers to join in and experience the performances at close range. All performances are free, but require advance tickets, which will be available online at a date to be announced. On the day of each performance, the High Line will close early for general audiences, and only registered ticket holders will have access that evening.

“The Mile-Long Opera: a biography of 7 o’clock” is produced by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the High Line, and The OFFICE performing arts + film. This project would not be possible without the generous support of Target, which is the presenting sponsor, or the partnership of the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation.