A ‘Mile-Long Opera’ Is Coming to the High Line

Posted May 16, 2018 5:58 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — David Lang has established himself as a master of powerful, large-scale public music through ambitious projects like “the public domain,” for 1,000 voices at Lincoln Center, and “symphony for a broken orchestra,” for hundreds of broken school instruments in Philadelphia.

And he’s back at it again: “The Mile-Long Opera: a biography of 7 o’clock,” which will have its premiere Oct. 3-7, is written for 1,000 singers who will perform along the High Line in Manhattan.

“What I love about the High Line is that it gives you a great vantage point on the life of the city — you see the backs of old buildings and the fronts of new buildings, you look down alleys, into windows, over old broken warehouses and new fancy stores,” Lang, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his 2007 oratorio “the little match girl passion,” said in a statement.

“I wanted the music to work the same way: 1,000 singers each have their own solo stories to sing, and you walk by them,” he added. “You might hear them all together, in a haze, as you walk by. Or you might lean in and hear each story.”

The project is conceived with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the architecture firm that worked on the High Line’s rehabilitation as a park and is now a producer of this project, with sponsors including Target. Elizabeth Diller, one of the firm’s founding partners, will co-direct the production with Lynsey Peisinger.

“After working on the design of the High Line for over a decade and witnessing the rapid transformation of the surrounding area, I thought a lot about the life cycle of the city — its decay and rebirth — full of opportunities and contradictions,” Diller said in a statement. “This vantage presented an opportunity for creative reflection about the speed of change of the contemporary city and the stories of its inhabitants.”

The libretto, by the poets Anne Carson and Claudia Rankine, is inspired by interviews with people around New York who were asked: What does 7 p.m. mean to you?

“I stepped into the 7 o’clock world initiated by Anne Carson and reached out to a random array of people who described their dining tables,” Rankine said in a statement. “The writing became a series of encounters — sites of personal theater. The tables formed landscapes that are invitations to eat, to gather, to work, to ponder, to rest, to wish, to share — or in other words, to live.”

Performers will come from a wide-reaching community initiative that involves partnering with organizations in each of New York City’s boroughs. Admission to “The Mile-Long Opera” will be free, but advance tickets will be required; additional details will be announced later.