An opera about a freeway? Only in L.A. (Updated)

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‘Write what you know’ is advice often given to aspiring novelists and playwrights. Apparently, it also applies to composers of operas.

Los Angeles Opera said today that it will present two workshop performances of a new commission called ‘The 110 Project,’ an opera that tells the stories of the communities along L.A.’s 110 Freeway, which runs from the Pasadena area, past downtown and all the way to San Pedro.


The new work features music by Laura Karpman and a libretto by author MG Lord (who is a contributor to The Times) and Shannon Halwes. The opera was commissioned by the company’s Education and Community Programs department.

According to L.A. Opera, ‘The 110 Project’ tells the story of four central characters as it travels through 70 years of L.A. history starting with the birth of the space program in Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco in 1939 to downtown Los Angeles at midcentury. It concludes at the port of San Pedro in the present day.

The librettists are using true stories, historical documents and other original material to craft the plot of the opera, according to the company. When finished, ‘The 110 Project’ is expected to feature the work of multiple composers and librettists.

So what will the opera sound like?

You guessed it: the music is said to be inspired by freeway sounds as well as cultural and historic source material. In addition, the singers will make up ‘a freeway chorus that scats and honks its commentary,’ said L.A. Opera.

A spokesman for the company did not say whether L.A. Opera plans to include ‘The 110 Project’ in a future season at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

The workshop performances are scheduled to take place Saturday, Nov. 21, at Pasadena’s Pacific Asia Museum and the next day, Sunday, Nov. 22, at California African American Museum. Both performances will begin at 1 p.m. and are free with regular museum admission.


‘The 110 Project is very much a work in progress,’ said Stacy C. Brightman, L.A. Opera’s director of Education and Community Programs, in a statement.

She said that the project grew out of L.A. Opera’s ‘simple desire to tell the stories of Los Angeles.’

-- David Ng

(A previous version of this post implied that the 110 Freeway ended in Long Beach. The freeway ends in San Pedro.)