Described by The Hollywood Reporter as "LA's avant-garde opera darling," Yuval Sharon has been creating an unconventional body of work that seeks to expand the operatic form. He founded and serves as Artistic Director of The Industry in Los Angeles, directing and producing the company’s acclaimed world premieres of Hopscotch, Crescent City, and Invisible Cities. His productions have been described as “ingenious” (New York Times), “virtuosic” (Opernwelt), “dizzyingly spectacular” (New York Magazine), and “staggering” (Opera News). Yuval begins a three-year residency with the Los Angeles Philharmonic with a new performance installation called Nimbus in Disney Hall on October 1.
City: Los Angeles
Has Judaism had a direct impact on what you are doing in your life today?
“Tikkun Olam” has been one of the most inspiring concepts for me in Judaism, and I consider the mission to repair the world a motivational force in my life. It took me a while to realize how to do that and also dedicate myself to art — specifically opera, which can seem to so many people elitist, a confirmation of the established order rather than a call to question and change it. But when I think of art’s ability to let people see with new eyes and hear with transfigured ears, I see how it aligns with the mission of “Tikkun Olam." I don’t believe art can directly change the world, but I think it’s one of the most powerful catalysts for inspiring an appetite for change. It’s also why I’ve been dedicated to do work here in Los Angeles that is accessible, affordable, and not removed from daily life — staging opera in train stations, moving vehicles, on the streets, etc. — to show that the everyday always has within it tremendous potentiality. That should be available to everyone, with the hope that “Tikkun Olam” begins in the hearts of spectators who feel inspired by what they see, hear, and feel.
Traditionally, there is a day of rest to help us recharge. How do you keep a healthy work/life balance?
Hmmm…sadly, I don’t think my work/life balance could be called “healthy!” Running an independent non-profit arts organization doesn’t happen within the prescribed 9-5, M-F work week. That said, I feel so fortunate that I make a living doing work that fills my life with meaning, so a lack of balance hasn’t provoked a crisis yet! I must confess that every Rosh Hashanah I vow to myself I’ll honor the Sabbath in true Rabbi Heschel style. The way he describes Shabbat in his book "The Sabbath" has always inspired me and remains a personal goal. (I’m sure I’ll go through the same process of wishful thinking again in a couple weeks…maybe this is the year?!)
What’s your favorite bagel topping?
Avocado! (I’m suuuuuuuch an Angeleno now…)
What is your favorite Jewish text (text defined loosely as film, book, poem, graffiti art…)?
Since I’m an opera director, I have to choose Arnold Schoenberg’s opera "Moses and Aaron", which I think is one of the most devastating depictions of the elemental struggle between word and image, the spiritual and the material. Moses is a speaking role, and he’s given severe and visionary pronouncements that struggle to find an audience; Aaron is a tenor who rephrases Moses in long seductive vocal lines that are so much easier to connect with. After an orgiastic dance around the golden calf provoked by Aaron’s singing, Aaron defends himself to his brother by saying he was making Moses’ ideas more relatable to the public. Moses responds, “Do I have to see the idea falsified?” The dialogue never resolves — Schoenberg never finished the opera, so when it’s performed now, it ends with the last line he set: Moses wailing, “Oh word, you word that I lack!” I love so many things about the opera, but what I think I love the most is how an elemental Jewish dilemma becomes a parable for truth's struggle to find its expression in the world.
If you could unplug and spend time with one Jewish/Jew-ish person for an hour, who would it be and what would you do?
I would discuss Wagner with Daniel Barenboim (the Argentine-born pianist and conductor who is a citizen of Argentina, Israel, Palestine and Spain).
What is your Six-Word Memoir on your Jewish Journey?
Horizons also journey along with you.