Reflections on The Mile Long Opera by Rachel Kara Perez

Ethereal. Connected. Alone. Embodied.

Standing in my little patch of wonder on The Highline towards 34th Street has been much more meaningful than I ever could have imagined. This week has turned into a physical catharsis. Each time I sing, repeating certain notes or passages, discovering deeper meanings in Anne Carson’s text, exploring David Lang’s intervals…I see very clearly now I am part of a moving meditation of sorts.

While under the night sky and the blaring lights of New York City buildings, a helicopter passing overhead, the subway cars parked in front of me, periodically clanging, the blow horn from a ship playing the same starting A for our section, a person yelling on the street, or a car blasting music…there is this peace. This serenity. This feeling of interconnectivity which is often lost in the (often exhausting) hustle of every day New York life.

To have permission to look into the eyes of passers by. Strangers. All ages, backgrounds, presentations, identities. The usual fear dissipates. At times I wonder if this is too intimate, yet I remember the words of Donald Nally in his letter to us all, that we are Storytellers. And I have tried to maintain that throughout this process. I don’t perform, I don’t entertain. I try to connect with whomever will listen. I take a moment to acknowledge those who drop their guard to look back at me. I follow the ones who never look up. I take a deep breath and relax into the gaze of a stranger, those who have stood in front of me, listening to the entire phrase, waited just past me and cried. I cried. I had friends from different walks of my life come to the dress rehearsal, none walking together, yet in an act of serendipity or fate, all converged on my standing place simultaneously. First two, on my right, and I sang to them in gratitude, then one stood in front of me with their partner to gently make me aware of their presence. Then I saw behind them that a few more had joined.

Then our very own Luis stood right in front of me, looking into my eyes in his big-hearted way. My tears overcame me, and I told this story to my friends, to the strangers who joined us, to the sky. I sang, I cried, I healed.

Thank you for this opportunity, to connect, to create space for our humanity, to give ourselves permission to just be present, acknowledging and listening and seeing one another.


Rachel Kara Pérez

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